Q:  Am I at Risk for Developing Alzheimer’s?

A: Alzheimer’s disease was identified in Germany in the early 1900’s. Alois Alzheimer noted the tangles and plaques during an autopsy on a patient that had exhibited memory loss, disorientation and hallucinations. In the years since, we have learned a lot about the mysterious disease and other types of dementia.

Who is at Risk?

The number one risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease is AGE. People over 85 are in the highest risk age group. Some ethnic groups, such as Latinos and African Americans are also at higher risk. Research data reveals a higher rate of dementia-contributing vascular diseases among these groups. While you cannot change your age or ethnicity, you can change some of the lifestyle factors that contribute to the likelihood for developing Alzheimer’s.

Genes or Lifestyle?

There are genes associated with dementia, which can be identified through genetic testing. Yet according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “…less than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases are caused by deterministic genes.” So that leaves lifestyle habits as the likely contributing factor. Vascular dementia is linked to hypertension and heart disease. The good news is a low-fat, low-salt diet can reduce your risk of hypertension. “Blue Zones” are areas of the world with a high number of people over 80 and lower incidence of dementia. Intrigued? Blue zone denizens eat a Mediterranean-style diet, heavy on plants and fish — low in dairy and red meat. Locals engage in significant physical activity in the form of walking, gardening and household chores.

All in your Head

There is evidence that prior head injuries are also a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia.  Wear a seatbelt and protect your head during bike rides or sports. Keep your home free of trip hazards. Keep your brain active with games, writing and socializing. Limit alcohol and exposure to cigarette smoke, both of which damage the heart and brain.

My deodorant?

Consumers have hit the panic button over products that contain aluminum. Extensive research has shown that the amount of aluminum that comes from everyday exposure (deodorant, cosmetics, cooking utensils, foil, etc.) is NOT linked with the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The Bottom Line

It is better to practice a healthy lifestyle than to gamble with your odds. If you are over 85, overweight, a diabetic and a smoker with hypertension, you have cause for serious concern. One Senior Place in Viera will feature Dr. Rosemary Laird in an exploration of Alzheimer’s risk factors during Meet the Doctor on February 14. RSVP online at or call 321-751-6771.

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.