Alzheimer’s, heart disease and other age-related conditions share risk factors and genetics

The two seemingly unrelated conditions may be driven by similar unhealthy states, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the risk factors for the neurodegenerative disease affecting more than 5 million Americans aren’t all in the brain.

A new report highlights the connection between Alzheimer’s and the heart, says Heather Snyder, PhD, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association. In the report, blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking are highlighted as risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, which strikes women far more than men. There’s also evidence that obesity and physical activity might play a part.

Many people view Alzheimer’s as a disease over which they have no control. But while factors like age and genetics do contribute to its development, the latest data indicate that other factors, which can be modified, may also be important. For example, hypertension in middle age may increase dementia risk, and mid-to-late-life diabetes is also associated with increased risk for all kinds of dementia. Both can be avoided with changes in lifestyle and, if needed, medications.

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