How to tell if you are at genetic risk for Alzheimer’s

dr Richard Isaacson, associate associate professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College, disagreed. “The reason I believe in testing for APOE4 is because some people really want to know more about themselves, and it really democratizes the ability to learn about those risks,” he said. “Not about whether they get the disease, but what we can do about it.”

If you decide to have a test, Margaret Pericak-Vance, director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said she would “suggest having a meeting with a genetic counselor afterwards because.” risk is not easy.”

“By having a copy or two, you get an important part of the picture, but it’s only part of a very complex risk picture,” said Dr. isaacson “Genes are not your destiny. You can win the tug of war against your genes.”

All of the experts interviewed for this article agreed that regardless of your genetic status, it’s possible to reduce your overall risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Studies show that tried-and-true healthy habits—exercise, healthy eating, limiting alcohol consumption, getting enough sleep, not smoking, and social engagement—are key to staving off neurodegenerative disease.

Exercise, both cardio and strength training, helps the brain make new connections between cells, especially in the hippocampus, an area important for memory. Scientists believe that building more connections may protect against memory loss. dr Small said that if you have the APOE4 variant, “exercise can still be helpful. There are some studies showing that this might be even more helpful for people at genetic risk.”

There is also evidence that a healthy diet, such as the Mediterranean diet, can be beneficial. In particular, it helps to eat fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants and fish, which contain omega-3 fats that can reduce inflammation. “This type of diet can have a tremendous impact on brain health,” said Dr. Small.

While the importance of vitamins and healthy fats in your diet is clear, the case for taking supplements for brain health is weak. dr Isaacson said a person’s genes can play a role in whether supplements can be beneficial. For example, research suggests that people with two copies of APOE4 may not absorb omega-3 fats from their diet as well as people without the genetic variant. Taking an omega-3 supplement may be beneficial for this particular group of people, but likely won’t be helpful for others, he said.


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