The Power of Prevention: Genetic Screening for risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

The statistics:

Fifteen percent of Canadians age 65 and older are currently living with Alzheimer’s Disease (AZD) and other related dementias. The risk for dementia doubles every five years after age 65. And fifty per cent of those over 85 will develop AZD.

The good news:

AZD begins 20-30 years before the onset of more severe symptoms which leaves plenty of room for early intervention. Imagine if you can measure, with brain imaging (SPECT or MRI) when you are 50, and you begin lifestyle interventions when you are 50, you change the trajectory of the disease by even a little, all of a sudden instead of getting ADZ when you are 65, you get it when you are 95.  Unfortunately, most people do not get a preventive brain scan to assess their risk. Fortunately, there is now an affordable genetic test available in Canada in the form of an in-office blood draw.

I recently completed my own genetic testing and found out that I do in fact have the APOE4 variation that puts me at a higher risk for developing AZD. It is insightful and motivating for reinforcing both my passion in Naturopathic Medicine and my desire to practice and maintain a healthy lifestyle for myself as well as assisting my patients in being able to do the same.

The APOE4 allele confers risk for Alzheimer’s disease (AZD). The current evidence suggests that APOE4/4 genotypes (individuals homozygote for the APOE4 allele) have a 5x greater risk of AZD, with onset occurring 15-20 years earlier than in the general population.

For more information on healthy lifestyle measures, the following document provides recommendations according to a traffic light system. Green indicates lifestyle measures that should be followed, and for which there is strong evidence. Amber indicates interventions for which there is good evidence for the prevention of AZD, but which apply to the general population, and are not specific to APOE4 genotypes; following such recommendations might be useful. Red are lifestyle and dietary choices that should be avoided. Evidence has been restricted to peer-reviewed, scientific studies.

Filed In Health Blog

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