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From The Huffington Post:
If I told you how to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease (AD), would you do it? My work as a geriatrician, seeing Alzheimer's patients and counseling hard-pressed families, makes me hope so.


My many conversations with people over 50, at dinner parties and elsewhere, who dread losing their memory, independence and self-control to Alzheimer's, make me hope so.

The fact that a recent poll suggested Alzheimer's is America's second most feared disease (after cancer), makes me hope so.

Amid all the difficult news about dementia, this may be one of the best reasons for hope: Contrary to widespread misconception, you have the power to lower your odds of getting dementia, even if specific medical interventions to prevent AD have yet to be identified.

Like every physician, I wish we had a treatment that could prevent or reverse this cruel disease that now afflicts more than 5 million Americans. But we don't, at least not yet. The hard truth is that, while there are medications that help slow the progression of symptoms in the early and middle stages of dementia (cholinesterase inhibitors, including Donezepil, brand name Aricept), nothing turns back the clock once Alzheimer's symptoms take hold.

What we do have, right now, is considerable knowledge about the risk factors that make it more or less likely that a person will develop Alzheimer's in the first place.

Most physicians now believe that the damage done by Alzheimer's is irreversible and that the best hope lies in preventing it. This is particularly true for people at higher risk. I believe passionately that we should all know what those risks factors are and work to turn them in our favor.

AD risk factors that you cannot change

There are two kinds of risk factors: those you can't control and those you can. Here are some risks factors that you should be aware of, even if you can't change them.

Family History: Having one parent with AD doubles your risk; two parents with AD puts you at five times greater risk.

Age: About 5 percent of Alzheimer's patients have early onset disease, but the vast majority of cases are late-onset. Seventy-four is the most common age for detection. Dementia is never an inevitable part of aging, but getting older is a risk factor. The number of Alzheimer's cases doubles every five years after age 65 and AD risk hits about 50 percent after age 85.

Genetics: People with two copies of the apolipoprotein (ApoE4) gene appear to be at about 10 to 15 times greater risk, and one copy triples the risk. That said, having one or even two copies of the gene does not mean you will definitely develop Alzheimer's. For this reason, most physicians do not recommend taking the blood test for ApoE4, except in research settings. (A different variant of the same gene, ApoE2, provides some protection against the disease.) New genes that increase risk continue to be identified, holding out promise for greater understanding of basic mechanisms, and, therefore, hope for prevention.

Multiple mutations of a number of genes are the most common cause of early-onset AD (before age 60). Members of these unfortunate families with such mutations definitely will develop AD.

On the bright side, earlier this year researchers reported an exciting discovery: a rare gene mutation that appears to offer strong protection against Alzheimer's, even for people at high genetic risk.

Being a woman: More women than men develop Alzheimer's Disease. Although women outlive men, and age is a powerful risk factor, the weight of evidence suggests that women are still at slightly higher risk than men. And there is no doubt that women bear the major burden of caregiving for persons of both sexes with AD.

Down's Syndrome: About half of all people with Down's Syndrome will develop symptoms of Alzheimer's by their 50s, but almost all at autopsy show the typical pathologic features of AD.

Continue reading for risk factors that you can change.

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