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Dementia Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors

Age and family history are risk factors for Alzheimer's Disease (AD). As you get older, your risk of developing AD goes up. However, developing AD is not a part of normal aging. Having a close blood relative, such as a brother, sister, or parent who developed AD increases your risk. Having certain combinations of genes for proteins that appear to be abnormal and occur in Alzheimer's Disease also increase your risk.

Other risk factors that are not as well proven include:

  • Longstanding high blood pressure
  • History of head trauma
  • Female gender

There are two types of Alzheimer's Disease -- early onset and late onset.

Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease

In early onset Alzheimer's Disease, symptoms first appear before age 60. Early onset Alzheimer's Disease is much less common than late onset. However, it tends to progress rapidly. Early onset disease can run in families. Several genes have been identified, which are often found with early onset disease.

Late Onset Alzheimer's Disease

Late onset AD, the most common form of the disease, develops in people age 60 and older. Late onset AD may run in some families, but the role of genes is less clear.

The cause of AD is not entirely known, but is thought to include both genetic and environmental factors. A diagnosis of AD is made when certain symptoms are present, and by making sure other causes of dementia are not present. The only way to know for certain that someone has AD is to examine a sample of their brain tissue after death. The following changes are more common in the brain tissue of people with AD:

  • "Neurofibrillary tangles" (twisted fragments of protein within nerve cells that clog up the cell)
  • "Neuritic plaques" (abnormal clusters of dead and dying nerve cells, other brain cells, and protein)
  • "Senile plaques" (areas where products of dying nerve cells have accumulated around protein).

When nerve cells (neurons) are destroyed, there is a decrease in the chemicals that help nerve cells send messages to one another through neurotransmitters. As a result, areas of the brain that normally work together become disconnected. The buildup of aluminum, lead, mercury, and other substances in the brain is no longer believed to be a cause of AD.

Support Groups

Here at Alpha Senior Concepts we know how important proper education and support is when it comes to coping with a dementia diagnosis. For that reason we offer support groups to help guide you through life after an Alzheimer's disease or other dementia diagnosis.

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"...and in the end it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."
-Abraham Lincoln