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What are the risk factors for Alzheimer's disease?

Apparent risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include age, genetic inheritance and gender.

Those older than age 65 are much more likely to get Alzheimer's disease. Genetics also seem to play a role, especially if an immediate blood relative had Alzheimer's, and women tend to get Alzheimer's more frequently because they live longer than men.

Older age is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease -- the usual onset is over 65 years. The older the person, the higher the risk. Having a family member with Alzheimer's, especially if he was diagnosed at an age under 60, is also a factor. Alzheimer's is inheritable, and the genetic basis is best understood in the early-onset forms. This follows an autosomal dominant pattern. People with Down syndrome are at a high risk also, and they tend to develop Alzheimer's disease at an earlier age than the general population.

Although age, family history and heredity are all risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and can’t be changed, research increasingly links the risk of Alzheimer’s with overall health. These studies find that having high cholesterol or high blood pressure levels, being overweight, getting little exercise and following an unhealthy diet can increase your risk for getting the disease.

The majority of people with Alzheimer's disease are diagnosed after age 65. They have the “sporadic” form of the disease. In this form, genes may influence your risk for developing the disease, but environmental factors may also play a role.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.