Alzheimer’s Risk Assessment Results
Your Brain’s Destiny is in Your Hands
1. Alzheimer’s/dementia runs in my family:
As you may already know, to some extent Alzheimer’s and dementia do run in families. If you answered “YES,” then you need to understand that a family history of Alzheimer’s does increase your risk of being diagnosed with this disease. Some studies even indicate as much as a 4-fold increased risk for Alzheimer’s if you have a sibling with this disease.
While genetics is one factor involved in determining Alzheimer’s risk, lifestyle and environmental factors also play important roles. Importantly, unlike genetics these are the factors that you can influence to help you reduce your risk for the disease. These ideas are presented in episode 4 of Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention.
2. Were your mother and/or father diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?
If you answered “YES,” then you understand that having a parent with Alzheimer’s creates significant emotional challenges. Additionally, it means you are at an increased risk of developing this disease yourself. Interestingly, having a mother with Alzheimer’s disease is a much stronger risk factor than if your father was diagnosed. While we can’t change our genetics we can powerfully influence our health destiny as it relates to Alzheimer’s, even if this disease runs in your family. The important point is that we can’t change our inheritance but we can absolutely change our risk for this disease by making important lifestyle changes. And these changes are revealed throughout Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention.
3. I have 1 or 2 copies of the APOE4 gene:
We each inherit two copies of the APOE “Alzheimer’s gene,” one copy from each of our parents. If you answered “YES,” it’s important you know that having one copy of the APOE4 allele is associated with as much as a 4-fold increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s, and having two copies of this gene may mean as much as a 12-fold increased risk for this disease. While we cannot control our genetic makeup, the empowering news is that the science of epigenetics shows us that we can powerfully influence the expression of our genes through the lifestyle choices that we make. In fact, many individuals that inherit two copies of APOE4 never go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease and instead live long healthy lives.
In Episode 3: The Alzheimer’s Prevention Toolkit, you’ll learn more about the exciting science of epigenetics and other tools you can use to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and take control of your genetic destiny.
4. I am a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease:
If you answered “YES,” you know that caring for a friend or loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can be quite a burden. It can result in sleep disturbances, social isolation, financial hardship and chronic psychological stress. In fact, a study published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed a 6-fold increased risk of dementia in those individuals caring for a spouse with dementia. With this in mind, it is incredibly important for caregivers to prioritize their own health. Diet, exercise, social engagement and stress management techniques can all help offset the increased risk associated with being a caregiver.
5. I have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment:
As we will learn in Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention, Alzheimer’s disease is not a situation that appears immediately. Rather, it is a disease that progresses slowly with changes in the brain showing up as early as 20-30 years before symptoms become apparent. Typically, individuals who develop Alzheimer’s will first be diagnosed with a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. If you answered “YES,” then you should know that once a diagnosis of MCI has been made the risk of future Alzheimer’s disease increases substantially, with the chances of MCI progression into Alzheimer’s ranging from roughly 9% to 19% per year. Therefore, an MCI diagnosis provides us with a critical window of time in which to intervene with lifestyle modifications that can potentially halt or reverse cognitive decline.
6. I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes:
If you answered “YES,” you need to know that type 2 diabetes is significantly associated with Alzheimer’s risk. In fact, many researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s disease as “type 3 diabetes” because many of the key problems involved in diabetes are involved in Alzheimer’s as well. One 2014 population-based study found that those who were newly diagnosed with diabetes had a 76% increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s compared to those that were not not diabetic. This is just one of many studies indicating a link between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
To learn why having type 2 diabetes or simply elevation of blood sugar increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, and what you can do to help decrease this risk, be sure to watch Episode 5: Diabetes and Alzheimer’s, A Not So Sweet Connection.
7. I am more than 20 pounds over my ideal body weight:
Obesity has become incredibly common across America. If you answered “YES,” then it’s important to know that although carrying extra weight may not seem like a big deal, it’s been found that being overweight may increase the risk of cognitive decline. Specifically, a 2010 meta-analysis published in the journal Biological Psychiatry showed a 59% increase in risk for Alzheimer’s disease in those that were obese. The good news is that being overweight or obese is generally a manifesation of lifestyle choices, and the important information we cover in Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention provides you the tools to help you maintain a healthy body weight.
8. My birth sex is:
Many people are surprised to learn that being female is associated with risk for Alzheimer’s disease. But, if you answered “Female,” you need to know that ⅔ of Alzheimer’s patients are female. We don’t yet fully understand how and why this is the case but preliminary research suggests that hormonal changes during menopause may play a role. In Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention, you will hear more about this fascinating subject from some of the most influential thought leaders in this field including Lisa Mosconi, PhD, the Director of the Women’s Brain Initiative and Associate Director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell.
9. I get less than 7 hours of sleep on a nightly basis:
Sleep is absolutely critical for brain health. Recently it was discovered that our brains actually clean themselves while we are sleeping by engaging what is called the glymphatic system. If you answered “YES,” you need to understand that if your sleep is interrupted on a regular basis and you don’t give yourself the roughly 8 hours of rest that you need to function optimally, you are increasing your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A 2017 analysis showed that individuals with sleep disturbances showed approximately a 50% increase in risk for Alzheimer’s compared to those with normal sleep patterns.
To gain a better understanding of the important role of sleep in charting your brain’s destiny be sure to watch Episode 10: The Power of Sleep, Nature’s Brain Tonic.
10. I am over the age of 65 years:
If you answered “YES,” then you should know that approximately 7% of the population over the age of 65 has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and risk for this disease doubles every 5 years after age 65. As you will learn in Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention, it is never too late to make lifestyle changes that may prevent you from ever experiencing cognitive decline.
11. I have had a traumatic brain injury (TBI):
Head injuries are incredibly common with over 1.7 million people experiencing a TBI annually in the US alone. If you answered “YES,” then you should know that multiple studies over the years have indicated that head injury is associated with anywhere from a 50 to 300% increased risk for dementia. Although head injury is not a modifiable risk factor, in light of these statistics, if you’ve experienced a TBI then lifestyle modifications are even more important to help reduce inflammation and help repair/offset any damage that has been done.
12. I have cardiovascular disease:
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States. If you answered “YES,” then you need to know that there is mounting evidence that a CVD diagnosis increases the risk of, and may even cause Alzheimer’s. In addition to sharing many of the same risk factors with Alzheimer’s, CVD may additionally cause neurodegeneration through vascular damage, the death of neurons, and the accumulation of amyloid plaques.
13. I usually exercise for less than 20 minutes per day:
Exercise impacts nearly every organ system in the body. It is also associated with the growth of new brain cells in the memory center of the brain. If you answered “YES,” then you need to understand that, remarkably, a 2001 paper published in the journal Neurology showed that those individuals that exercised regularly had a 50% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. More recent interventional trials have shown that exercise is actually associated with improvements in cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease. In Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention we will hear from Dr. Kirk Erickson, one of the premier researchers in the field of physical activity and cognitive function.
To learn some simple, practical ways you can make brain-healthy exercise part of your life and just how critical physical activity is in supporting brain function, be sure to watch Episode 9: Move for a Better Brain.
14. I am not socially engaged in a supportive community:
Our social networks are incredibly important. Although we’re linked together by our digital connections more than ever, we’re still incredibly isolated as individuals. If you answered “YES,” then you should know that research indicates that feelings of loneliness and social isolation are major risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. So it shouldn’t be surprising that an extensive social network has actually been shown to be protective against dementia. It is paramount that we surround ourselves with a supportive circle of friends and family and that we stay engaged throughout our lives in order to keep our brains healthy and help stave off cognitive decline. In Episode 8: Stress and Alzheimer’s, you’ll learn more about the importance of seeking joy and connection in your life through time with family and community.
15. I would consider my life to be stressful:
We all experience stress in our lives. If you answered “YES,” then you need to understand that chronic, unrelenting stress can be incredibly harmful to the brain. Research shows that both medium and high levels of perceived stress are associated with increased risk of dementia. In Episode 8 of Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention you will learn all about the powerful relationship between stress and Alzheimer’s disease and explore ways you can reduce and manage stress in your life, starting today.
16. I frequently take acid blocking drugs:
If you answered “YES,” then you should know that observational studies have shown a link between acid blocking drugs and Alzheimer’s disease. One such study from the Journal of the Medical Association, showed a 44% increase in risk for Alzheimer’s disease in those individuals who used PPIs regularly. While we don’t understand this relationship fully, the evidence suggests that this is likely due to the effect that these drugs have on our gut bacteria, collectively called the microbiome. In Episode 11 of Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention, you’ll learn more about the effects of these over-the-counter drugs and how you can avoid other common exposures that are harmful to your brain.
17. I frequently consume artificially sweetened beverages:
You may believe that you are doing yourself a favor by opting for a calorie-free, artificially sweetened beverage. But if you answered “YES,” then you should know that a 2017 paper published in the journal Stroke indicates otherwise. This study showed that those individuals regularly consuming artificially sweetened beverages had a 189% increase in risk for Alzheimer’s disease. While we don’t fully understand the reasons for this dramatic increase in risk, most evidence indicates that these artificial sweeteners are negatively impacting the delicate balance of microbes in the gut, collectively called the microbiome. In Episode 7 of Alzheimer’s – The Science of Prevention you will learn all about the connection between the microbiome and brain, and what you can do to help nurture your microbiome.
1. Alzheimer’s/dementia runs in my family (1)
2. One or both of my parents have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (1)
3. I have 1 or 2 copies of the APOE4 gene (1)
4. I am a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease (1)
6. I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes (1)
7. I am more than 20 pounds over my ideal body weight (1)
8. My birth sex is (1)
10. I am over 65 years old (1)
12. I have cardiovascular disease (1)
15. I would consider my life to be stressful (1)
16. I frequently take acid blocking drugs (1)
17. I frequently consume artificially sweetened beverages (1)