There’s a New Test to Determine Your Genetic Risk of Alzheimer’s

Over the years, researchers have been able to uncover data regarding some of the potential risk factors related to Alzheimer’s. At this time, we’re not exactly what causes this disease. Although there appears to be a range of possible contributing factors, a combination of one’s environment and genetics are believed to play a role.

For many, as they age, this is an area that they can’t help but worry about — wouldn’t it be nice to be able to determine your potential risk?

Well, luckily, progress has been made within this area, as scientists have recently developed a new genetic test to better determine your risk of Alzheimer’s. More specifically, this new test will predict the age a person will likely develop the disease.

What is this test all about, and what does it mean for the future of Alzheimer’s research?

New Test Available to Predict Age When Alzheimer’s May Appear

Genetic testing — Alzheimer's

Recently, an international team — led by Rahul Desikan, of the University of California, developed a test that can essentially calculate an individual’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Meaning, if you do not already have dementia, this test can determine your risk of onset based on genetic information, and one’s most significant contributing factor — age.

Using 31 genetic markers, a high score on this test, may result in being diagnosed years earlier than those who showcase a low-risk genetic profile. In fact, based on this recent study, those who ranked within the top 10 percent in relation to risk, were more than three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s during the course of the study — and did so over a decade before those who ranked within the lowest 10 percent.

The polygenic hazard score test was initially developed using genetic data from more than 70,000 patients, including both healthy individuals and those who had developed Alzheimer’s. Based on past research, it appears that as many as 25 percent of Alzheimer’s patients, display a strong family history of this degenerative disease.

While focusing on specific genes that may influence development, ApoE has been of great interest over the years. This specific gene can be displayed in one of three forms — and has been linked to the most common type of Alzheimer’s, being late-onset. When individuals showcase one version of ApoE, they automatically reduce their risk by up to 40 percent.

In comparison, when someone receives two copies of the high-risk version, as passed down by each parent, risk can then increase by 12 times. In this latest study, although ApoE was an area of interest, thousands of other background genetic variations were examined. After identifying 2,000 single letter differences in the genetic code, the researchers ranked them based on their influence.

This is when the 31 markers were identified, which can then be used to predict an individual’s risk. For example, when relating back to those within the top 10 percent risk group, the average age of development was 84 years — compared with 95 years among those in the lowest 10 percent.

Currently, this genetic testing tool is in its early stages, and is not yet ready for clinical application — but it certainly is a step in the right direction. By predicting the likelihood that someone will develop dementia, could essentially lead to key preventative measures.

Genetics Is Not the Only Contributing Factor

Genetic testing — Alzheimer's

As stated above, although genetic factors do, in fact, play a key role in whether or not an individual develops dementia, including Alzheimer’s, it is not the only possible variable. Based on available research, genetics only cover part of the story — which is why you also need to be mindful of your lifestyle choices.

If you would like to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, you CAN take action today. You cannot change your genetics, but you can influence your current environment and lifestyle choices.

The best way to approach neural health, is to take care of your heart.

Vascular issues have been shown time and time again, to reduce one’s risk of brain dysfunction. When your blood flow is affected, for instance, this instantly impacts the brain based on a reduced supply of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood. This is why researchers suggest maintaining your cardiovascular health in order to enhance cognition for years to come. To do, you must:

  • Eat well — the Mediterranean diet has been shown to yield protective factors against neurological decline. Be sure to consume more nuts, olive oil, fish, berries, and dark leafy greens.

  • Remain active — even walking for 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular complications. If you have sore joints, there are plenty of low-impact activities that can enhance your well-being, including swimming and yoga.

  • Manage stress — chronic stress is a silent killer, and has been linked to both heart disease and dementia. Research has shown that of those who suffer from mild cognitive impairments, when under high stress levels, cognitive decline becomes apparent at a more rapid rate.

  • Sleep well — recently, researchers from Berkeley, have found that poor sleep may be connected to beta-amyloid protein, which is a hallmark sign of Alzheimer’s. It is their hope that if individuals intervene, improving quality of sleep, they can potentially break this causal chain of events.

  • Remain engaged — when you remain engaged socially, you increase your odds of remaining mentally engaged. In fact, those who continue to socialize, may not only reduce their risk of dementia, but also depression — all while supporting a stronger immune system.

Of course, how you live your life is up to you, but keep this in mind — the decisions you make today, can greatly influence your health tomorrow. Just as researchers have been focusing on preventative measures in relation to Alzheimer’s development, you can take the same proactive approach to further protect all aspects of your health. If you truly support your body and mind, you will likely be rewarded for many years to come.

Krista has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in psychology and neuroscience. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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