If you could figure out your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, would you want to know?
Well, it won’t be long before you’ll have to make up your mind about finding out.
In fact, the future is here when it comes to foreseeing your brain’s future.
Refined Look at Genetic Risks
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, along with scientists from other countries, have been crunching the genetic data of more than 70,000 people to come up with a way to calculate your risk for getting Alzheimer’s disease.
The scale they’ve devised is the “polygenic hazard score” (PHS). It incorporates information about your age and shows your chances of Alzheimer’s-related brain problems with each passing year.
“For any given individual, for a given age and genetic information, we can calculate your ‘personalized’ annualized risk for developing AD (Alzheimer’s disease),” says researcher Rahul Desikan. “That is, if you don’t already have dementia, what is your yearly risk for AD onset, based on your age and genetic information.”
Beyond the APOE Gene
Before this study, researchers already knew that if you have what is known as an E4 variant in your APOE gene, you run an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The variants linked to the APOE gene also come in two other varieties: the very rare E2, which can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s, and E3, the most common variation, which does not affect your Alzheimer’s chances.
Studies show that the E4 variant in DNA only occurs in about one person out of ten. One copy of this genetic variation can triple your risk of Alzheimer’s. Two copies (and you can only have two copies) can multiply your risk by 12 times.1
The researchers for this latest investigation refined the data on various genes linked to Alzheimer’s disease and, after devising the PHS system, they tested it out to see how well it predicted memory problems in senior citizens.
They discovered that individuals who score highest in the PHS scale fall victim to Alzheimer’s at a much younger age than others with a lower score – 10 to 15 years earlier, on average. The PHS scores also reveal a high risk for some people who don’t have the E4 variant in their APOE gene but have other genetic factors that make them more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.
Mayo Clinic Test Scores Your Alzheimer’s Risk
Along with these genetic developments, other researchers are finding ways to analyze your health history and lifestyle habits with a fairly simple question and answer quiz that can give indications of how well your memory will probably hold up as you grow older.
In the analysis developed at the Mayo Clinic, your risk for cognitive difficulties is ranked by factors such as whether or not you were found to have diabetes before age 75 (that increases your score by 14 points) or being divorced or never married (which gives you another 9 points).
In this test – you can find it here – the lower your score the better.2
You can reduce your score with lifestyle habits that are good for your brain – and the rest of your body, too. These include holding your weight down, exercising, and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables while avoiding processed foods.
Each of us only gets one brain in this life. Taking good care of it is a necessity if you want to live life to the fullest.