Potential Contributing Factors
- Cardiovascular disease: Risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, may also increase one's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. High blood pressure may damage blood vessels in the brain, disrupting regions that are important in decision-making, memory and verbal skills. This could contribute to the progression of the disease. High cholesterol may inhibit the ability of the blood to clear protein from the brain.
- Type 2 Diabetes: There is growing evidence of a link between Alzheimer's disease and type 2 diabetes. In Type 2 diabetes insulin does not work effectively to convert blood sugar into energy. This inefficiency results in production of higher levels of insulin and blood sugar which may harm the brain and contribute to the progression of Alzheimer's.
- Oxidative Damage: Free radicals are unstable molecules that sometimes result from chemical reactions within cells. These molecules seek stability by attacking other molecules, which can harm cells and tissue and may contribute to the neuronal brain cell damage caused by Alzheimer's.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is a natural, but sometimes harmful, healing bodily function in which immune cells rid themselves of dead cells and other waste products. As protein plaques develop, inflammation results, but it is not known whether this process is damaging and a cause of Alzheimer's, or part of an immune response attempting to contain the disease.
Other Possible Risk Factors: Some studies have implicated prior traumatic head injury, lower education level and female gender as possible risk factors. Alzheimer's disease may also be associated with an immune system reaction or a virus