What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease
Published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. Read More…
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Whether it’s you … your spouse … your mother … your father … an aunt or uncle … grandparent … or a best friend … everyone faces the possibility of diminishing memory, loss of optimal brain function and slowed mental capacity with age.
By 2050, it is projected that up to 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease.
But now, not everyone must succumb to memory loss, dementia and other age-related losses of brain function.
Every day, scientists are uncovering evidence that diminished memory and mental capacity are NOT inevitable for everyone. Learn how nutrition and lifestyle habits can help improve the odds of warding off cognitive decline.
Introducing Your Alzheimer’s Expert
The 2020 Memory White Paper is authored by Dr. William Jagust, M.D., a professor of public health and neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley, and a faculty senior scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. His work has been focused on understanding the aging brain-particularly, the borderland between brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
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What Causes Alzheimer’s Disease
Scientists have yet to pinpoint a cause for Alzheimer’s disease. The leading theory is that it occurs because a protein called beta-amyloid accumulates in the brain, and that this then leads to alterations in another protein, called tau. The ensuing deposition of tau in the brain leads to dysfunction of brain cells and a loss of connections among them, ultimately causing them to die. While this theory has received the most attention, it has yet to be proven.
Listed below are several factors that increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Having a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease means that you’re more likely to develop the disorder, but it doesn’t mean you necessarily will. Risk factors don’t directly cause the condition.
Age. The strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is advanced age, with the likelihood of developing the disease doubling every five years beginning at age 65. After age 95, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent.
Gender. Women are at higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease than men, even after taking into account the fact that women tend to live longer. It is not clear exactly why women are more vulnerable. Decreased levels of estrogen after menopause may play a role.
Heredity and genetic predisposition. Having a family member with Alzheimer’s increases the risk of developing the disease. Only a handful of people with Alzheimer’s—fewer than 1 percent—have the disease as a result of one of three identifiable defective genes, or gene mutations (APP, PS-1, PS-2) that inevitably lead to the condition. Gene mutations that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s but don’t inevitably lead to it also have been identified.
Some families have a predisposition to Alzheimer’s, meaning that although the disease “runs in the family,” it is not associated with a genetic defect discussed above. Some family members develop the disease, while others don’t. Having a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease is not the same thing as carrying a genetic mutation.
Cardiovascular disease. Many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease appear to be risk factors for Alzheimer’s. These include:
Other possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include head injury, major depression, and Down syndrome.
[From: 2020 Memory White Paper, pp. 32-35, 38-39.]
The 2020 Memory White Paper
Your Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
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