Alzheimers Research UK explain 'what is dementia?'
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Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain condition that greatly undermines quality of life by causing gradual memory loss and other cognitive impairments. Spotting it early can help to slow the onset of the brain decline and buy precious time. Now a new study published in the journal Nature Communications has identified six new gene variants associated with Alzheimer’s.
The findings are the result of a study into the DNA of over 400,000 people.
It confirmed the role of several genes already known as risk factors for Alzheimer’s and identifying new candidate genes, some of which are harmful and others are protective.
According to Daniela Galimberti, head of the Diagnosis and Research Laboratory of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Unit, “the results presented today underline the fact that the disease is due to the effect of numerous genes and the genetic risk can be quantified”.
The implications could be profound.
It highlights how the disease is due to the combined effect of several genes and indicates the possibility of calculating a score that quantifies the genetic risk to identify asymptomatic individuals who are most likely to develop the disease.
To gather their findings, the researchers deployed sophisticated techniques and methods to allow a precise diagnosis of the disease at the molecular level.
The six gene variants associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk were:
Two ‘exonic’ variants in the SHARPIN gene.
Elio Scarpini, director of the Neurodegenerative Diseases Unit, stressed that “the identification of asymptomatic subjects at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is an essential element for the development of new specific, preventive and curative pharmacological treatments”.
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Genetics and Alzheimer’s – explained
According to the Alzheimer’s Association (AS), there are two categories of genes that influence whether a person develops a disease: risk genes and deterministic genes.
“Researchers have identified hereditary Alzheimer’s genes in both categories,” explains the AS.
As the health body explains, risk genes increase the likelihood of developing a disease but do not guarantee it will happen.
Deterministic genes, on the other hand, directly cause a disease, guaranteeing that anyone who inherits one will develop a disorder.
In addition to genes, there are modifiable lifestyle factors that can underpin the development of Alzheimer’s.
According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, some of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s are the same as for cardiovascular disease (like heart disease and stroke).
“By leading a healthy lifestyle and taking regular exercise you will be helping to keep your brain healthy,” explains the charity.
“It is likely you will be lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s too.”
To keep healthy:
- be active and exercise regularly
- Do not smoke
- Eat a healthy balanced diet
- Control high blood pressure
- Keep cholesterol at a healthy level
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Only drink alcohol within recommended limits.
Some research suggests that enjoying an active social life, with lots of interests and hobbies, might be beneficial.
Staying mentally and socially active has been linked to a lower risk of dementia.
“It’s not clear which activities are most beneficial, but doing things you enjoy like reading, doing puzzles, or joining a signing group, or social club can help you to feel happier, stay mentally active and feel more positive in life,’ notes Alzheimer’s Research UK.
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