For most seniors, one of the most frightening aspects of growing older is the thought of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Whether you are nearing your “Golden Years” yourself, or you have a loved one who is, you need to understand Alzheimer’s disease. Toward that end, the North Andover elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices help you understand what you should know about Alzheimer’s disease.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Most people associate Alzheimer’s disease with dementia and the loss of memory. While those are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, the disease is considerably more complicated than that. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, deterioration of thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. These neurons, which produce the brain chemical, or neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, break connections with other nerve cells and ultimately die. For example, short-term memory fails when Alzheimer’s disease first destroys nerve cells in the hippocampus, and language skills and judgment decline when neurons die in the cerebral cortex. Unlike many other diseases, such as AIDS, experts do not believe Alzheimer’s has a single cause. Instead, they believe the disease is multi-faceted with a number of factors influencing the development of the disease. Scientists are currently focusing on amyloid and tau proteins, whose malformation are classic characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease; however, other factors likely help determine who develops the disease, including vascular health, inflammation, lifestyle, and possibly even viral causes.
Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease
Although experts are working hard to find an accurate way to predict, with certainty, who will develop Alzheimer’s, they are not there yet. Scientists and doctors do, however, believe that there are risk factors that increase your odds of developing the disease, including:
- Age. Experts tell us that age is the greatest risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The older you are, the higher the risk of developing the disease. One in nine people over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease, and this figure rises to one in three for people over the age of 85.
- Family History. Experts also appear to agree that family plays a role in predicting who will develop Alzheimer’s disease. A family history of Alzheimer’s disease will increase your chance of getting the condition, particularly if it is a brother, sister, mother, or father who had/has the disease. The risk is greater if more than one family member has or has had the disease.
- Genetics. Researchers have identified certain mutated genes associated with the disease. Anyone who inherits a copy of the APOE-e4 gene is at greater risk, and the risk is even greater if they inherit two copies of the gene. There are also deterministic genes that, if inherited, would guarantee the onset of the disease. This only accounts for around 1 percent of Alzheimer’s cases and often the patients suffer from early-onset.
- Head Injury. We don’t hear much about this one, but there is evidence to suggest that head trauma may lead to Alzheimer’s disease, particularly repeated head trauma.
- Heart Health. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease increases if you suffer from conditions that can affect the heart, such as stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
- Race. Latinos and African Americans are one and one-half to two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than Caucasians. The reason for this is unclear, although many think the higher rate of heart problems in Latinos and African Americans may be the cause.
Contact North Andover Elder Law Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about elder law issues, contact the North Andover elder law attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.