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What is Known About AD Risk


Alzheimer's Disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer's, symptoms first appear after age 60. Age is still the #1 risk factor of developing AD. The second greatest risk factor for developing AD is variation in the apolipoprotein E-4 gene. While these two factors are extremely important for AD risk, they do not describe the full picture. Other risk factors for AD risk include: diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even factors in midlife like high cholesterol and blood pressure. 

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The brain changes in similar ways, for both aging and AD, including: shrinking, developing vascular disease in the brain and loss of cognitive abilities. However, AD has special features that distinguish it from aging and other diseases that result in loss of neurons and brain tissue. The amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described in 1906, play a central role in AD. Recent advances in neuroimaging now allow us to image amyloid plaques in the brain in living adults using Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Another type of PET image shows use the AD brains don't use glucose for fuel as well as (or as much as) healthy brains. 

A particular strength of the WakeADCC is our focus on ways to prevent AD. Our research focuses on how diabetes and cardiovascular disease contribute to the development of AD and how improving diet and physical fitness may prevent AD. Several of our clinical trials focus on how diabetes and cardiovascular disease lead to changes in the brain and how exercise can prevent them.
Last Updated: 09-28-2016
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