What are the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s?

What are the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s?

As discussed, the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, those being most at risk are over the age of 65. There are a variety of factors that may increase a person’s risk of developing the disease, these include:


One in six people over the age of 80 years old have dementia, one of the main causes is Alzheimer’s. Above the age of 65 a person’s risk of developing the disease doubles every five years.


Twice as many women over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s – the reasons are still unclear as to why. It is thought to be because women tend to live longer than men, it may also be that the disease is linked to the decline of the hormone oestrogen, which depletes after menopause. Other factors that may contribute to the gender differences include  differences in cognitive performance as well as in gendered social roles and opportunities (educational and occupational opportunities, and functional roles after retirement).


Scientists are investigating the finding that Alzheimer’s is passed down through generations, some families show clear signs of this whilst others do not. In families who have had Alzheimer’s, they tend to show clear signs of dementia well before the age of 65. However, inheriting the disease is not common.

As previously mentioned, Down Syndrome sufferers also have a higher risk of developing the condition. 

Lifestyle and health

There are a variety of medical conditions and lifestyle factors that are known to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and stroke) are also considered risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. These include:

Environmental and Lifestyle Factors

The following environmental factors are thought to contribute to risk of development of Alzheimer's:

  • Low levels of formal education: Research has shown that education lowers the risk of dementia. The amount of education and quality still has to be clarified.
  • Poor Diet and lack of exercise: Nutrition and exercise play an integral role in overall health and preventing disease development. Research shows that those who follow a healthy lifestyle and diet, exercise regularly and eat a healthy, balanced diet tend to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular and Alzheimer's disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a contributing factor in cardiovascular and Alzheimer's disease development.
  • Alcohol: Those who drink excessively have the highest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
  • Head injuries: Individuals who experience severe or repetitive head trauma have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's. It is believed that the deposits that form in the brain as a result of the injury may be linked to the disease's onset.

Many health and lifestyle factors are modifiable and keeping these under control will help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is also important to get treated as early as possible.

Speak to your health care professional about healthy lifestyle changes. 

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