Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Age -The Most Significant Risk Factor for Alzheimer’s Disease

There are multiple known risk factors for the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including family history, genetics, diabetes, gender, and vascular health; however the largest risk factor is age. The inherited form of Alzheimer’s, early onset, is rare and effects people under the age of 65. Once a person reaches the age of 65, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s increases, as the person ages.

  • At 65 to 70 years your risk is about 1.5%
  • At 70 to 74 years your risk is about 3.5%
  • At 75 to 79 years your risk is about 6.8%
Experts estimate that the risk for Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after age 65 and by age 85, nearly half of all people have the disease.

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association report (pg 6)

“By age group, the proportion and number of the 4.9 million Americans age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s disease breaks down as follows:
* Age 65-74: 2 percent … 300,000 people
* Age 75-84: 19 percent … 2,400,000 people
* Age 85 +: 42 percent … 2,200,200 people”

And they estimate that “By 2050, the number of individuals age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s could range from 11 million to 16 million unless science finds a way to prevent or effectively treat the disease. By that date, more than 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease will be age 85+.”


It is still a mystery, why age is the largest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s. Researchers at the University of Cambridge are seeking to find out why. By investigating the pathways (biochemical reactions) that regulate ageing and their interactions with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease they hope to find an answer.

Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the presence of amyloid protein plaques in the brain and the destruction of brain nerve cells. Researchers at the University of Cambridge are investigating what age related changes make the brain more susceptible to these plaques and consequent brain deterioration. Although the toxic proteins associated with Alzheimer’s are found in normal brains and develop throughout a regular human life cycle, they rarely cause disease in younger people.

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An important insight into the ageing process has come from the discovery that the insulin-signaling pathway has a role in determining lifespan. It has been shown that a reduction in activity of this pathway in organisms such as flies, worms and mice increases lifespan. The aim of this project is to investigate the interactions between pathways involved in the regulation of ageing and Alzheimer’s disease using fruit flies (Drosophila) as a model.

The fruit fly models replicate many of the features of the human disease. The researchers, led by Dr Maria Giannakou, will use the model to determine how ageing affects the sensitivity of the fly brain to the toxic protein and how other processes or proteins interact with the ageing process to increase or decrease toxicity. A better understanding of the interaction between the ageing process and the formation of brain plaques in Alzheimer’s disease could lead to potential new targets for drug design.

How can I tell if your memory problems are serious?

A memory problem is serious when it affects your daily living. If you sometimes forget names, you're probably okay. But you may have a more serious problem if you have trouble remembering how to do things you've done many times before, getting to a place you've been too often, or doing things that requires steps (such as following a recipe).

Another difference between normal memory problems and dementia is that normal memory loss doesn't get much worse over time. Dementia gets much worse over several months to several years.

It may be hard to figure out on your own if you have a serious problem. Talk to your family doctor about any concerns you have. If your memory problems are caused by a certain medicine you're taking, your doctor can prescribe another medicine that doesn't have this side effect. If another condition is causing your memory loss (such as depression), your doctor can help you treat the condition.

Memory problems that aren't part of normal aging

  • Forgetting things much more often than you used to
  • Forgetting how to do things you've done many times before
  • Trouble learning new things
  • Repeating phrases or stories in the same conversation
  • Trouble making choices or handling money
  • Not being able to keep track of what happens each day 

Please review prevention tips and other useful information on my Alzheimer's Disease related blog: http://alzheimers-review.blogspot.com/

Sources and Additional Information:


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