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Most People Get Alzheimer's This Way, Experts Say

Factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer's, according to doctors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer's, a disease that causes memory loss. Although there are cases of younger people with Alzheimer's, symptoms usually start after 60, but isn't considered a part of normal aging. While experts still don't know the main cause of Alzheimer's, there are factors that raise the risk of getting the disease and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with doctors who explained what those factors are. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What is Alzheimer's Disease

Mature woman with her doctor in ambulance talking about healthcare

Dr. Brian Wu, director of psychiatry at the behavioral healthcare team of Executive Mental Health, specialized in caring for the elderly says, "The American Psychiatric Association defines Alzheimer's disease as a progressive neurodegenerative condition that leads to a decline in mental function severe enough to disrupt daily life. Alzheimer's develops over time and differs from normal age-related memory problems with more severe memory loss and personality changes. Monitor for changes in routine behavior that causes more distress. It is important to begin early check ups as Alzheimer's is a chronic condition, but there are ways to help slow the progression." 

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senior woman with adult daughter at home.

Dr. Santoshi Billakota, MD, an Adult Neurologist Epileptologist and Clinical Assistant Professor within the Department of Neurology at NYU Grossman School of Medicine explains, "There are a number of genes that increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. However, although this does increase risk, there are also many people with a positive family history who never develop the disease. Familial Alzheimer's disease is linked to mutations in the APP, PSEN1 and PSEN2 genes."

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Underlying Cause of Alzheimer's

Doctor examines MRI scan of head, neck and brain of patient

According to Dr. James Dan, geriatric clinical advisor and member of the Senior Helpers Board of Directors, "The underlying cause of Alzheimer's disease has yet to be discovered by scientists. There are many theories, but no definitive proof. An immense amount of research is underway to understand the cause(s) and thereby lead to better medical treatments. For example, commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients are tangles of abnormal proteins. That said, we are not sure if this build up of protein causes the disease or simply a sign of the disease." 

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Lack of Sleep

30-something woman having trouble sleeping

Dr. Dan asks, "In the meantime, what do we do to help care for those afflicted? We try to mitigate factors associated with Alzheimer's disease. An example of this is that Alzheimer's disease patients commonly have sleep disorders. As we all know, poor sleep leads to a decline in one's mental sharpness and an increase in physical fatigue. Neither are good to face the challenges of the day, especially if you have Alzheimer's disease as these traits diminish your mental capacity and increase your frailty!"

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Social Isolation

Middle aged barefoot woman sitting at the floor embracing her knees, near sofa at home, her head down

"Similarly, we know that Alzheimer's disease patients living in social isolation have a more deleterious course," Dr. Dan states. "They clearly do better when engaged with routine and familiar routines."

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Poor Diet

hamburger or cheeseburger, deep-fried squid rings, french fries, drink and ketchup on wooden table

Dr. Dan explains, "Other factors that contribute to the worsening of Alzheimer's disease is having overall poor health. Healthy diet, regularly exercising and controlling cardiovascular risk factors, e.g. smoking, diabetes, will help lessen the burden of Alzheimer's disease on a patient's life course. That is, it will not so much be curing the disease but by eliminating aggravating factors." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather