A new study has led to a key discovery, revealing the reason why people who should develop Alzheimer’s, remain healthy.
Based on the complexity of this disease, we are often asking ourselves why?
- Why is it that some people go on to develop this disease while others do not?
- Complex connections have been discovered, so why is there still is no cure?
- Why do the choices I make today, increase my risk of Alzheimer’s?
These are important questions to ask ourselves.
Based on the latest research, it may be clear why high-risk individual remain healthy. These individuals carry known genetic risk factors, yet never develop the disease. This is due to a rare gene variant.
A Gene Variant May Protect Against Alzheimer’s
As published in Genome Medicine, researchers discovered a gene variant that may influence treatment efforts. Among high-risk individuals, the researchers found that a rare genetic variant offers protective effects. This means that there is a key reason why some people who should develop Alzheimer’s never do.
By focusing on this genetic factor, treatments could develop. Future therapeutic drugs could develop based on this gene variant. This research is unique in that it focused on genetic variants that protect against the disease. In comparison, research often focuses on genetic variants that cause Alzheimer’s.
- The researchers collected data from the Utah Population Database. This data combined historical medical records and genealogical records. This helped the researchers determine families who carried the main Alzheimer’s genetic risk factor — the E4 Allele (APOE ε4). They then looked at those who remained healthy well into their elderly years, despite their genetic risk factor. In total, the researchers identified 200 ‘AD resilient’ individuals.
- Examining their DNA, they compared AD resilient individuals to their loved ones (who had passed away from the disease). By looking at the DNA that these ‘resilient’ individuals shared with one another, they discovered a variant in the RAB10 gene. In comparison, their loved ones who did develop the disease, did not display this variant.
- By over expressing and under expressing this gene variant, they were able to see how it impacts Alzheimer’s related proteins. What they found was that when the gene is reduced within the body, Alzheimer’s risk also lowers. The researchers also discovered that RAB10 expression is significantly higher in human Alzheimer’s brains.
- Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that RAB10 research may lead to promising advances in treatment.
Reduce Your Risk, Starting Today
Although these recent findings are based on genetic data, this variant is not the only protective factor. Regardless of your age, it is never too early or too late to develop good lifestyle habits.
By the time you reach your mid-life (ages 40 to 60), it is imperative that you consider the choices you are making on a day-to-day basis. There is not one single approach that will prevent Alzheimer’s, but the more of these guidelines you follow, the better:
- Remain active — At least 4 times a week, exercise for 30 minutes. You will want to raise your heart rate, which is why swimming, dancing, or even a brisk walk are great options. One study found that a walking intervention enhanced brain connectivity among older adults living with MCI.
- Do not smoke — Cigarette smoke increases your risk of dementia, cancer, and heart disease. If you currently smoke, take the required steps to quit. Another key study found that although smokers show an increased risk of dementia, smoking cessation decreases their risk to that of someone of does not smoke. APOE ε4 carriers who smoke also showcase a higher risk than non-carriers. The same is true for alcohol. Limit your intake to 14 units (max) each week. This equates to approximately 4-5 large glasses of wine or 7 pints of beer with a lower alcohol content.
- Eat well — To reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, consume a healthy, balanced diet. The more whole foods you eat, the better. Eliminate processed foods from your diet and aim to cut back on both saturated fat and sugar. A ‘heart-healthy’ diet will also offer protective neural effects.
- Maintain a healthy weight — As long as you change your diet and you begin to exercise, you will be able to achieve a more desirable weight. When you are overweight, you increase your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These all increase your risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.
Alzheimer’s Runs in the Family — Will I Get It Too?
Has your mom, dad, grandparents, or sibling been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the past?
If so, you may be at an increased risk.
Remember, the connection between genetics and dementia is not fully understood. Being such a complex topic, there are a long list of contributing factors.
To increase peace-of-mind and awareness, genetic testing is available. These predictive genetic tests can determine if you carry the same inherited mutation. It is important to note that these tests can only determine cases of inherited Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia. This does not include most common type of Alzheimer’s (most often seen among people 65+ years of age).
Since these tests provide low predictive value, they are not recommended outside of research. For example, you could display two copies of the higher risk APOE variant, but still not develop Alzheimer’s — while someone with other variants may go on to develop this disease.
As stated by Neal Barnard, “The failure of animal experiments has necessitated a turning point in Alzheimer’s research. New methods are focusing not on mice, rats, or monkeys, but on human neurons, human genes, and chemical reactions within the human body.”
It will be exciting to see what we discover next.