“Only 20 percent of our longevity is genetically determined. The rest is what we do, how we live our lives.” ~ David Sinclair
In the world of Alzheimer’s, many individuals sadly assume their genes are their destiny, and once you’re diagnosed, there’s not much you can do.
With a growing body of mainly evidence-based research by Dr. Dale Bredesen at the Apollo Health Institute, we’re learning that your genes are not your destiny regarding Alzheimer’s. You can do a lot to prevent and even treat it if it’s not in the late stages.
By merging the science of genetics, longevity, and Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment, it is becoming increasingly evident that:
- Your genetics are not your destiny (lifestyle plays the most significant role in most cases)
- Alzheimer’s is a largely preventable illness
- With the adoption of specific preventative and treatment protocols, you can stack the odds in your favor, even with a family history of Alzheimer’s and genetics that are not in your favor.
With a growing body of evidence started by Dr. Dale Bredesen, a neurologist and expert on Alzheimer’s who’s been studying the progression of it for the last 30 years, only 5% of cases of Alzheimer’s disease are genuinely familial (those would be the cases with the APP or PSEN1 or PSEN2 mutations).
For the most part, we are dealt a genetic hand. In the case of Alzheimer’s, we are learning we can modify the risks significantly by following particular health and lifestyle interventions.
In a nutshell, several genes are strong.
Genes that Increase our Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Regarding the genes contributing to the risks of Alzheimer’s disease, APOE is the most commonly tested and one of the most well-studied.
Although you can get this one tested through MDs and Neurologists, many direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies can also provide information on it.
As far as APOE goes, there are a few different variations, with varying degrees of risk associated with Alzheimer’s;
- APOE E2 - this one is the least common, and it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s.
- APOE E4 - Approximately 15% to 25% of the general population carries an APOE E4 allele. APOE4 increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and is associated with getting the disease earlier.
- APOE E3 - this is the most common variation and doesn’t seem to affect the risk of Alzheimer’s in either a positive or negative direction.
Novel Genes Associated with an Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Beyond APOE or the other most well-studied genes in Alzheimer’s later in this article, we would be remiss if not to mention the genes below. We will do so through the lens of a Functional Medicine approach to preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. It turns out that APOE does not function on its own in terms of contributing to Alzheimer’s risk. A complex interplay exists between APOE status and other genetic markers, such as detox, inflammatory pathways, and neurotransmitter production.
4 Genes that can significantly modulate the risk for APOE4 individuals are:
- ApoC1 Insertion This gene exists on the same chromosome as APOE and has an additive effect on Alzheimer’s risk while playing a role in inflammation, immunity, and cardiac and diabetes risk.
- TOMM40 This gene is co-inherited with APOE4 75% of the time and can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease development, even for those with an APOE3 status. It plays a role in mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, and the preservation of brain integrity.
- TNF-a The TNF-a gene, which correlates with TNF-a (an inflammatory cytokine), also has an additive effect on APOE, with inflammatory processes playing a significant role in many cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
- BCHE This gene is a co-regulator of the metabolism of acetylcholine, a critical neurotransmitter involved in memory and orchestrating countless regions in the brain and body. Research demonstrates that the presence of BCHE and APOE4 doubles the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Due to the many complex drivers of Alzheimer’s, unfortunately, even those individuals without the most suboptimal APOE status may still have an increased risk. With an increased understanding of the complexity and nuances physiological driving the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, below are just a few of the additional metabolic processes and genes that have now been studied and shown to play a role:
- Methylation: MTHFR
- Inflammatory Immune Mediation: IL-6
- Detoxification: GSTM1 and GSTP1
As we can see, genetics can play a significant role in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s. Given the number of processes involved, in-depth investigation is warranted in most cases. Some of these genes may fall out of the scope of standard genetic testing. Work with an Apollo-trained coach or physician to get your cognitive genes tested for a more comprehensive look into all of the genetic factors. A reputable company like Intellxx may be a great place to start in assessing your risks.
Other Genes Associated with Late-Onset Alzheimer’s
Although APOE is generally the ‘go-to’ gene to test first regarding Alzheimer’s risk, several other genes below are associated with late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
- ABCA7 is related to how the body uses cholesterol. Its exact role in Alzheimer’s isn’t yet clear, but the gene does seem to be correlated with Alzheimer’s disease.
- CLU. This gene is involved in the clearance of Amyloid beta, which is a central factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
- CR1. Based on Dr. Dale Bredesen’s growing body of research, inflammation is often a massive driver of Alzheimer’s. A deficiency in the protein that the CR1 gene produces can contribute to chronic inflammation in the brain.
- PICALM. Communication between neurons is essential for cognitive function and memory formation. The PICALM gene is linked to the process by which neurons communicate, which is associated with Alzheimer’s.
- PLD3. This gene remains somewhat of a mystery regarding its effect on the brain. However, it has been linked to a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- TREM2. Rare variants of this gene are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, which is involved in the brain’s response to increased inflammation.
- SORL1. Some variations of this gene are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
A few people develop the young-onset type, where the onset is typically between 30 and 60.
The young-onset type is strongly linked to our genes, and the three primary mutations that cause this are:
- Amyloid precursor protein (APP)
- Presenilin 1 (PSEN1)
- Presenillin 2 (PSEN2)
In the case of Alzheimer’s treatment and prevention, an optimal program (as outlined by the Apollo Institute, a leading authority in the available treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease) involves comprehensive testing and a very targeted protocol (depending on the individual and the factors at play in their particular case).
Be Empowered to Change Your Health Trajectory
When it comes to the progression of Alzheimer’s, the vast majority of cases are ‘sporadic’ where genetic predispositions would play a role. Still, lifestyle factors (such as diet, exercise, stress management, and management of environmental factors) can play a critical role in prevention, as well as treatment if it’s not in the later stages.
While many views an Alzheimer’s diagnosis as fatalistically (and even more are unaware of its often preventable nature), we at Tiger Medical Institute aim to spread awareness of cognitive health and empower people to change their health trajectory.
Through knowledge of integrating complementary and conventional health care, we are equipped with the tools to treat and prevent chronic illness through early testing and symptom management.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a multifactorial, chronic neurological condition whose standard of care has sadly not caught up with advances in medicine and research in many ways.
The licensed physicians at Tiger Medical Institute are trained in assessing, treating, and preventing chronic complex conditions (such as Alzheimer’s) using a root-cause functional approach.
Tiger Medical Institute uses genetic and biomarker testing to determine your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and assess your overall cognitive and physical health.
To learn more, review these additional articles on Alzheimer’s and cognitive health:
- Who Should I See if Alzheimer’s Runs in My Family?
- Can Alzheimer’s Be Prevented?
- 5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Book a call today if you want to move forward and speak to a professional at our company to learn even more about your options.