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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

7 Myths About Alzheimer's Disease

What not to believe about Alzheimer's disease.
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2. Myth: Exercise, diet, and mental activities prevent Alzheimer’s disease. continued...

It could be that people with healthy lifestyle habits have other traits working to their advantage. In short, there's no proof that lifestyle prevents Alzheimer's disease.

Still, there is no downside to eating healthfully, staying physically and mentally active, and nurturing your relationships. Even if it isn't proven to prevent Alzheimer's disease, it's certainly good for you and your quality of life.

“My approach to that is that it’s a good idea for your general health and there is some evidence that aerobic exercise helps cognition,” Ringman says.

3. Myth: Only old people get Alzheimer’s.

It is true that age is the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease: One out of eight people 65 and older have it.

But there is such a thing as early-onset Alzheimer's disease, which starts before age 65. It's rare, accounting for only 5% to 10% of all U.S. Alzheimer's cases -- about 200,000 people. 

“People can get it in their 20s, although typical [for early onset] is in the 40s and 50s,” Ringman says.

Early-onset Alzheimer's disease often has a strong genetic link.

4. Myth: Alzheimer’s is all about genetics.

There are gene mutations that are linked to Alzheimer's. But there's more to Alzheimer's disease than having a rogue gene.

Take the APOE gene, for example. It has several variations, including one that is linked to greater risk of getting Alzheimer's disease. But not everyone with that APOE variation gets Alzheimer's, and not everyone with Alzheimer's has that APOE variation. And that's just one of several genes linked to Alzheimer's risk.

So clearly, genetics isn't everything.

Usually, Galvin says, there is a strong family history with people of every generation getting it at same age. “But, generally [genetics] are not a very large risk factor,” he says.

Researchers are hunting for more genetic clues. Meanwhile, keep this in mind: There is not one Alzheimer's gene that seals your fate, and the biggest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, by far, is aging.

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