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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Alzheimer's Biomarkers: Overview of existing and future biomarkers. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention (Continued)

Several risk factors have been associated with AD and include one or more of the following:
  • Age: Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for AD. As one grows older the risk of developing AD tends to increase, however, AD is not a part of the normal aging process.
  • Family History and Genetics: Although the genetics of AD among families is unexplained and complex, the risk of developing the disease is somewhat higher if a first-degree relative has the disease. (More details on genetics is presented in a separate section of this course).
  • Down Syndrome: It is known that many individuals with Down Syndrome develop AD. Signs and symptoms of the disease tend to appear 10 or 20 years earlier in people with Down Syndrome. This could likely be the result of having three copies of chromosome 21 possibly leading to the production of more beta-amyloid.
  • Sex: There tends to be more women with the disease. However, this may be due to the fact that women generally live longer than men.
  • Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): Individuals with MCI have a decline in memory and thinking skills. MCI can lead to a significant risk of developing dementia and could later progress to AD.
  • Past Head Trauma: A severe head trauma can increase the risk of AD.
  • Poor Sleep Habits: Poor sleep patterns such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep can be associated with an increased risk of AD
  • Lifestyle and Heart Disease: Lifestyle risk factors associated with heart disease may also increase the risk of AD. These factors include lack of exercise, obesity smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
  • Mental and Social Activities: Lack of lifelong involvement in mentally and socially stimulating activities may be risk factors for AD.
Unfortunately, AD is not currently a preventable condition. However, modifying a number of lifestyle risk factors may help reduce the risk of developing AD. Changes in diet, exercise and other habits to reduce heart and circulatory diseases may also lower the risk of developing the disease. Moreover, maintaining social and mental skills later in life may help to reduce the risk.