Each year, new developments in science, lead closer to identifying the causes of Alzheimer’s; every step is one closer to discovering how people develop this disease, learning which risk factors lead to Alzheimer’s and eventually how the disease can be treated.
If significant risk factors can be identified, the science and medical community can then work on ways of minimizing those risk factors in individuals and even in treating people with Alzheimer’s. There are a number of risk factors that are common to all Alzheimer’s patients and cannot be controlled or reversed:
Age – As a person ages, the chances of developing Alzheimer’s increase exponentially. Except in rare cases, Alzheimer’s usually develops after the age of 65. Recent studies suggest that the risk of Alzheimer’s may double every 5 years after the age of 65 reaching around 50% at the age of 80.
Genetics and Hereditary Factors – Just like the aging process, a person’s genes and genetic hereditary factors cannot be changed. One cannot remove the genes and proteins that are defined as Alzheimer’s risk factors. There are two types of genes that causes disease in individuals:
Deterministic Genes: Genes that are directly responsible for and directly cause disease. If one has a specific gene that causes a disease, one will develop that disease. One of the most important advances in the study of Alzheimer’s is into 3 types of proteins: presenilin-1 (PS-1) and presenilin-2 (PS-2) and amyloid precursor protein (APP). These proteins have variations that are known to be present in Alzheimer’s patients.
Risk Genes: Risk genes on the other hand present a new set of data. Identifying genes that MAY put a person at risk to develop Alzheimer’s could lead to a scientific breakthrough about who may be at risk and how to treat and prevent the risk from causing the start of the disease. Identification of the risk gene in the protein, apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) and scientists continue to study the protein to determine why it could cause Alzheimer’s.