There is no known single cause of Alzheimer’s disease; research has led to the identification of many possible, probable, and known risk factors. In addition to family history and genetics, it is believed that environment and lifestyle factors may influence the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, including:
AGE: The number one risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
CARDIAC AND VASCULAR HEALTH: It is often noted that “what is good for the heart is also good for the head.” Lack of regular exercise and poor dietary habits effect the condition of cardiac and vascular systems, and may contribute to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
GENDER: Women are at higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease—the frequency is 2X the rate of men. The reasons are not yet known, but research related to sex-based differences is being conducted. Studies into the impact of estrogen and female hormones have borne mixed results.
DEPRESSION AND SOCIAL ISOLATION: These are risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease—and females are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than their male counterparts.
STRESS: Researchers believe that chronic anxiety and severe levels of stress may trigger damage to the neuronal networks and hippocampus, leading to mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
SLEEP PATTERNS: With age, the sleep/wake cycle begins to break down, which results in older adults getting progressively less and less sleep. Studies are being considered to determine if chronic sleep loss in young and middle-aged adults increases risk of Alzheimer’s disease later in life.