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If You Have This Gene, Be Worried About Alzheimer's

When it comes to dementia, knowledge is power.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

5.8 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease (the most common form of dementia) as of 2020, according to the CDC. "It's important for those over 65 to be aware of the early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's and consider a cognitive assessment every 5 years to be proactive," says Melanie Keller, ND. Here are five warning signs of Alzheimer's—including the specific gene associated with the disease. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Alzheimer's Is Not Inevitable


Even if you're in the "at-risk" group for Alzheimer's disease and dementia, that doesn't mean mental decline is a given. "What if I told you that most of what we believed about the brain at the beginning of this century has already been proven wrong or incomplete? And that memory loss and brain atrophy are not inevitable?" says neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "Most people ages 34 to 75 understand the vital importance of brain health but also have no idea how to make their brains healthier or realize that it is even possible. They believe their fate is baked into their DNA and nothing can be done to change that. They would have a hard time accepting what countless studies have shown: that the brain simply prefers a body in motion, and that it doesn't take much to reap enormous benefits."


How To Be Proactive About Brain Health


"I tell patients to follow the SHARP dietary protocol: Slash sugar; Hydrate (even being dehydrated a few ounces can affect cognition); Add more omega-3 fatty acids from foods like cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds; Reduce portion; and Plan ahead. I also tell them to spend their money on something proven to ultimately help the brain, like a comfortable pair of shoes for walking or a new pillow for a good night's sleep," says Dr. Gupta. "After years of losing sleep over my globetrotting reporting of natural disasters and wars, I prioritize slumber now and sweat it out regularly because I know what the science says. Restorative sleep and exercise are antidotes to mental decline."


Aside From Genetics, Who Is Most At Risk?

Portrait of worried senior man sitting on sofa in living room

"Age is the single most significant factor," says the NHS. "The likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease doubles every 5 years after you reach 65."


Alzheimer's and Long COVID

Infected patient in quarantine lying in bed in hospital.

A study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons found Alzheimer's-like signaling in the brains of deceased COVID-19 patients. "One interpretation of these findings is that long COVID could be an atypical form of Alzheimer's and/or that patients who had severe COVID could be predisposed to developing Alzheimer's later in life," says Andrew Marks, MD, chair of the Department of Physiology & Cellular Biophysics at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. "But much more research needs to be done before we can make more definitive conclusions."


Gene Most Strongly Associated With Alzheimer's

Scientist working in the laboratory

40-65% of people who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease carry the APOE-e4 gene—the gene associated with the strongest risk of Alzheimer's. "When a person has an increased risk for Alzheimer's due to their family history, I recommend specific functional testing that measures Alzheimer's-associated immune reactivity to identify the early stage of neurodegenerative processes and/or to monitor the effectiveness of lifestyle modifications for Alzheimer's disease," says Keller. "In my practice, I order a test that includes a person's genetic (APO-E) status since one of the three forms (APOE-e4) is the first risk gene identified that remains the gene with the strongest impact on Alzheimer's risk."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan