If Dementia Runs in My Family Will I Get It Too?
After his mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, 52-year-old Bud started worrying that he would eventually get the disease too. He had one copy of the APOE4 gene, a gene variant known to increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. That was strike one. Cognitive testing showed that he was already experiencing some memory problems as well as attention issues. Strike two. Bud also had high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, pre-diabetes, untreated sleep apnea, and about 30 pounds too many around his midsection—all of which have been found to contribute to increased risk. Strike three, strike four, strike five… You get the picture.
Bud was so concerned, he made an appointment for a brain scan using SPECT technology. The brain scans showed decreased activity in the frontal and temporal lobes—a clear sign he was headed for serious trouble. Was he doomed to follow in his mother’s path?
Your Genes Can Increase Your Risk for Dementia
Having a family member—especially a first-degree relative like your mother, father, sister, or brother—with severe memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease, or another form of dementia makes you 3.5 times more likely to develop symptoms. Similarly, if you have one or two copies of the APOE4 gene, you have a greater chance of memory problems.
Many people in the medical community contend that there is nothing anyone can do to mitigate genetic risk. They’re wrong. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk even if you have a genetic predisposition for the disease. Just look at Bud.
Your Genes are not Your Destiny
Studies show that our genetics predict only about 20-30% of our longevity. The rest is up to our lifestyle choices. It’s similar for dementia risk. When Bud saw his brain scans and his cognitive testing results, he got serious about his physical health and his brain health. He completely overhauled his diet—dramatically reducing his sugar consumption, increasing his intake of protein and healthy fats, decreasing the number of processed carbohydrates, and adding important nutritional supplements. He also started exercising and began using a CPAP machine to help his sleep apnea.
Within a year, he dropped 30 pounds and was happy to see blood pressure and blood sugar levels fall into a healthy range. Even better, he said his memory and focus were better than when he was in his 20s. With these lifestyle changes, Bud had lowered his risk for the dreaded disease. You can do it too.
5 Strategies to Reduce Your Risk for Dementia
Go for early screening.
If you have a family member with any form of dementia, get screened around age 40. Getting a brain scan can show early signs of a problem, and cognitive testing can set a baseline for future comparisons.
Get serious about keeping your brain sharp.
Engage in new learning throughout your lifetime. Studies show that learning new things lowers the risk for dementia in people with one or two copies of the ApoE4 gene.
Eat a brain-healthy diet.
To work at optimal levels, your brain needs high-quality nutrition. Don’t overeat as studies show that obesity—and in particular belly fat—increases the risk for Alzheimer’s.
Research shows that exercise can reduce some of the brain changes seen in people with the ApoE4 gene.
Protect your head.
Head injuries can increase the risk for the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain that is seen in people with Alzheimer’s. Avoid risky sports and practice balance exercises to prevent falls.
If you’re concerned about dementia or if a loved one is showing signs of the disease, don’t hesitate to speak to a specialist. At Amen Clinics, our multi-faceted brain-body approach, which uses the least toxic most effective treatments, has helped thousands of people improve their overall brain health and prevent or reverse memory problems. Find out more by calling 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.