Alzheimer's disease is a scary possibility that faces many of us today -- whether for ourselves or for aging parents or grandparents.
Currently, 10% of people age 65 or older have Alzheimer's disease (AD), and the risk for Alzheimer's disease increases considerably with age. It is a disease for which prevention needs to start decades before the symptoms appear.[ref]
One way to understand your Alzheimer's risk - and to understand the mechanisms by which the disease occurs - is to look at genetic variants that increase the risk for Alzheimer's. On the other hand, you can also learn a lot by looking at genetic variants that protect against Alzheimer's.
Genetic variants that protect against Alzheimer's disease:
Genes combine with environmental exposure and lifestyle to determine your risk for Alzheimer's disease. There are genetic variants that increase your risk for Alzheimer's disease. Other variants decrease your risk for the disease.
This article focuses on that protective side of the equation, something that many people worried about AD fail to consider.
Even if you don't carry the protective variants below, a lot can be gleaned from understanding how the variants work and why they decrease the risk of Alzheimer's. This seems to be a relatively new field of research, but it is interesting to note that several of these protective genetic variants are involved in either cholesterol or lipid metabolism in the brain.
Most Alzheimer's research focuses on the accumulation of amyloid-β plaque and the tangled tau fibrils. These proteins lead to the death of neurons in the brain. Unfortunately, thirty plus years of research and clinical drug trials on amyloid-β have shown very few positive results.
Amyloid-β is a protein formed when enzymes cut the APP (amyloid precursor protein) protein into smaller fragments. Some of the protein fragments move out of the brain. But amyloid-β that isn't cleared can build up around neurons, forming plaque.
Genetic variants that are protective against Alzheimer's:
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