There are plenty of things to dislike about getting older, folks. Everything cracks when you get out of bed in the morning, things that used to not tire you out now do, and you just don’t look as young in the mirror anymore. Of course, there are plenty of things to like, too–wisdom, for starters–but there are also things that are downright scary about getting older, and one of these scary things is Alzheimer’s disease. This disease affects the brain, causing memory loss and damage to other cognitive functions.
Researchers do not believe there is one single cause of Alzheimer’s. Instead, there is a set of risk factors that may make people more likely to develop it.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the most significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s is getting older (https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers/causes-and-risk-factors). However, it’s important to keep in mind that age alone is not a direct cause, and this disease is not a normal part of aging. Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older.
Your family history and genetics
People who have a sibling or parent with Alzheimer’s are simply more likely to develop it themselves. This risk increases if more than one relative has the illness.
Researchers have also established that genes are involved in the developing of this condition. There are two categories of genes that influence the development of a disease–deterministic and risk genes. Deterministic genes directly cause a disease, while risk genes indicate the possibility of developing a condition. While Alzheimer’s genes have been discovered that fall under both of these categories, it’s estimated that under 1 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are from deterministic genes.
Your head injury history
Unlike other risk factors, this is one you can influence. There is a known link between experiencing head injuries and dementia. Always wear a seat belt, fall-proof your home and use a helmet any time you take part in an activity that could pose a head injury risk.
Your heart health
Brain health and heart health have been linked by researchers. This is a connection that makes sense. Your brain receives its nourishment from a network of blood vessels, and it’s your heart’s job to get the blood through these vessels to your brain.
Like head injuries, you can mitigate this risk factor by taking care of your heart. Work out consistently, see a doctor regularly and eat a healthy diet to help keep your heart in good shape.
Some memory loss does occur as a natural part of aging, so don’t be alarmed if you forget a name now and again. However, if this is a consistent problem and it’s getting worse, speak to your doctor about it.