If you know your risk, you can save your sanity (2023)

If you know your risk, you can save your sanity (1)

When Australian actor Chris Hemsworth announced late last year that he was stepping back from film to focus on his health after genetic testing revealed he had an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease, it sparked an important conversation. Many people hesitated, especially those with a family history ofmemory problems,Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, to consider testing for the same Alzheimer's gene.

With just one Apo E4 gene, the chance of developing late-onset Alzheimer's is 25% compared with a 5-10% risk for people without the gene.click to tweet

Alzheimer's disease is a devastating brain disease. It slowly destroys memory and reasoning skills and, over time, the ability to perform even the most basic of tasks. For most people who develop the disease, late-onset symptoms first appear around age 60.

If you're concerned about developing memory problems, here's what you need to know about genetic testing for Alzheimer's disease.


The Alzheimer's gene usually refers to a variant of the apolipoprotein E (Apo E) gene, which is the number one genetic risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease. The Apo E gene provides instructions for making apolipoprotein E which serves as a lipid/cholesterol transporter. Lipids are the building blocks of cell membranes and play a vital role in healthy brain function. Problems with lipid homeostasis are believed to play a role in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.investigationin the 2020 edition ofLipids and Alzheimer's diseasesuggests.

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There are three common forms/variants of the Apo E gene: E2, E3 and E4.

  • Apo E2 is the least common and has a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease.
  • Apo E3 is the most common, found in more than half of the population. It does not seem to affect the risk of Alzheimer's.
  • Apo E4 is less common than E3 and markedly increases the risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, as research indicates that it exacerbates beta-amyloid deposition and plaque formation in the brain.

Of course, you get an Apo E gene from each parent. Combinations of the E3 and E2 genes are not worrisome. However, if you have an E4 gene, youralzheimer's cragincreases 2 and a half times. If you have two, your risk increases 5-15 times,investigationWas found. If you develop Alzheimer's disease from other causes, having the Apo E4 gene causes symptoms to appear 2 to 5 years earlier than in people who do not have the gene.


About 25% of people carry at least one E4 gene, and between 2 and 3% carry two, according to data from theNational Institute of Health. With just one Apo E4 gene, the chance of developing late-onset Alzheimer's is 25% compared with a 5-10% risk for people without the gene.

While that's a significant increase, it's important to note that inheriting the Apo E4 gene for Alzheimer's doesn't mean you will fully develop the disease; a full 75% of those who test positive never do. In fact, even in cases where a person has an Apo E4 gene and develops dementia, there is a chance that the symptoms could be different from those of Alzheimer's. However, if two Apo E4 genes are present in someone with dementia, the root cause is likely Alzheimer's disease.

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Some people with familial memory problems know they are at increased risk for Alzheimer's and may not see the value in genetic testing. Others simply don't want to know because they feel powerless to do anything about it. Here are some key facts if you're considering taking the test.


If you discover that you are at greater risk of Alzheimer's disease because of your genes, you will be highly motivated to make a more concerted effort to reduce all other risk factors with your lifestyle choices.


Most people ignore the power of epigenetics as it is still an emerging field. While we cannot change the genes we inherit, the field of epigenetics shows us that we have a lot of power to influence them, and this is true for people who test positive for the Apo E4 gene.

Epigenetic means "above or above the gene". Only in the last few decades have scientists discovered that your lifestyle habits, emotions and environment can turn genes on or off, making certain illnesses more or less likely in you and future generations who will inherit your genes. In other words, environmental influences such as the foods you regularly eat (especially during pregnancy),stress, exposure to toxic chemicals, etc. all influence the genes you pass on to your children, grandchildren, and others.

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Someinvestigationemepigenômicasuggests that epigenetics may play a key role in understanding different forms of dementia and other degenerative and mental health disorders. For example,investigationnoEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutritionsuggests that nutrition may have an epigenetic influence on the development of forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease.

empowers you with information

Knowing that you have the Apo E4 gene can help you make critical decisions about your own health, or possibly that of your children, if you choose to be screened.

For example, having one or two copies of the gene makes you more likely to have vascular problems,investigationemNeurologyhas indicated.Studiesthey also show that the Apo E4 gene is associated with lower overall cerebral blood flow. So taking care of your vascular health is critical for your brain if you test positive for the Apo E4 gene!

also someinvestigationindicates that if you have the Apo E4 gene and go throughchemotherapy, further increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease andstudiesshow a similar increase for those who have the E4 gene and sufferhead injuries. Parents may want to track their children who play high-contact sports.

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Ongoing research on Apo E4 also revealslifestyle actionsyou can take to reduce your risk of Alzheimer's as well.

for example, recentstudy resultsprovide preliminary support for testing choline supplementation to help reverse harmful changes in brain cell lipid metabolism that can occur in those carrying the E4 gene.

An in-depth nutrition 2021to studyfound certain dietary, dietary, and nutritional recommendations for Apo E4 carriers to reduce Alzheimer's risk (as part of a risk-reducing lifestyle that includes restsleep, exercise, low stress and social connection). Among them, the study recommendedlimit alcohol intake, choosing a low-glycemic/low-carb diet, and including certain beneficial foods like olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, and fatty fish.

beforestudiesA study conducted by researchers in Finland and Sweden found that exercising at least twice a week in middle age reduces the risk of dementia more than 20 years later, and this protective influence is stronger in people who carry the Apo E4 gene. .

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Especially for people with a family history of memory problems, dementia or Alzheimer's,early detection(around age 40) with cognitive tests and questionnaires, and possibly the addition ofSPECT cerebralIs important. Any doctor can order a blood test to check the status of the Apo E gene. That said, genetic testing should not be taken lightly and should be discussed with your doctor.

And in 2018to studyemGenetics in Medicinehave shown that finding out you have the APOE4 gene can cause psychological distress, including feelings of fear, anxiety or anger. If you choose to be tested, be aware that you may have a strong emotional reaction. Understand, however, that in this same study, participants reported that knowing their increased risk motivated them to make lifestyle changes that had a beneficial impact on their lives in the long term.

Memory problems, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and other mental health issues cannot wait. At Amen Clinics, we are here for you. We offer brain scans and clinical consultations, as well as telemental health, clinical assessments and therapy for adults, teens, children and couples.Learn more by speaking to an expert today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact pagehere.


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