Monday, June 25, 2018

What Is Your Risk Of Alzheimer's?
Testing For AoeE Proteins
Our Results and The Challenge Ahead

Alzheimer's is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.

Alzheimer's Disease
If there was a scary disease contest, Alzheimer's would be pretty high on the list, if not on the very top. While the rates of the top two leading causes of death, cancer and cardiovascular disease, have decreased, the Alzheimer's death rate is going up. Between 2000 and 2014, it has increased 89%.

Today more than 5 million Americans are living with this disease and by 2050 that number is projected to be 13.8 million. What makes it scary is that professionals claim that it is the only  leading cause of death that cannot be prevented or cured. Thankfully there are those that believe prevention is possible and some who even think it can be reversed. We will cover that in future blog posts.

It's Personal
Both my mother and grandmother died from brain-related diseases. Although neither had Alzheimer's, (my mother had water on the brain and my grandmother a brain tumor), I watched them both lose their mental faculties before they died. Nothing is more sad than to watch a love one show signs of dementia. 

My mother had an amazing memory. She worked as the executive assistant to the President of Columbia Pictures. If you watched a movie with her, she could tell you the name of every actor in the film. Then she would tell you who they were married to, how many kids they had, their ages, and anything else you wanted to know about them. My first clue that something was wrong with her was when she asked me how many years my brother was married. She just didn't forget things like that. It turned out that she had hydrocephalus. She eventually lost all her capabilities, including the ability to speak. 

My husband's grandfather died of Alzheimer's in his 80's and his uncle started showing signs in his 60's. His cousin is now struggling with some form of dementia.

With these family issues we are both very concerned with brain health. We, of course, do many things for our health that should help prevent this terrible disease, but we wanted to know if we needed to step it up a notch. So we decided to get tested for the ApoE gene. A lot of our friends say they don't want to know, but we did.

ApoE is a protein in the brain that helps clear the harmful plaques that are characteristic in the brains of those with Alzheimer's. These toxic plaques consist of damaged amyloid-B proteins which stick together and form around nerve cells.  

There are 3 main ApoE proteins - E2, E3 and E4. 
* E2 is the good ApoE protein as it is the most effective at removing the amyloid-B plaques from the brain. It is the least common form of ApoE.
* E3 is the most common and doesn't seem to affect the risk of getting Alzheimer's.
* The E4 ApoE protein does a very poor job at removing the plaques.

A person has two copies of these genes so you can be E2/E3 or E2/E2, etc..

Interpreting the ApoE Test
If you have two copies of the E2 allele, you hit the jackpot and have the lowest risk of Alzheimer's disease and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. 
This combination of variants shows a decreased risk of Alzheimer's.
This combination shows no increased risk.
E2/E4 or E3/E4
One copy of E4 with either an E2 or E3 variant shows an increased risk of Alzheimer's.
Two copies of the E4 variant shows a significantly increased risk of both Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.

The Statistics (from 23 and me)
The general population has a less than 1% chance of getting Alzheimer's Disease (AD) at age 65. 
At 75, their risk increases to 3%. 
When they reach 85, the risk for men is 11% and 14% for women.

The population that has no E4 variants have less of a risk. 
At age 65, both men and women have less than 1% risk.
At age 75, both men and woman only have a 1.2% chance of getting AD. 
At age 85, men have a 5.8% chance and women a 6.1% chance of getting the disease. 

If you have one copy of the E4 variant, your risk goes up.
At age 65, men have a 1% risk and women have less than 1%.
At age 75, men have a 4.7% risk and women a 5.7% risk.
At 85, the risk increases to 20.23% for men and 27.3% for women.

Those with two copies of the E4 variant have the highest risk.
At age 65, men have a 4% risk and women a 2% risk.
At age 75, men and women have a 28% risk of getting AD.
At age 85, men have a 51% chance and women a 60% chance of getting AD.

We Took the Test
Since we are members of Life Extension, we bought their test. 
You don't have to fast. You just do a quick cheek swab with each of the three swabs they provide. You mail it back in a prepaid envelope and you get the results in 2 to 3 weeks.
The Results
My results were good. I had a E3/E3. I don't have the protection of the E2 variants, but the E3s have no increased risk.

My husband's results were not good. In fact, he had the results we dreaded, given his family history - an E4/E4 - a double copy of the E4 variant. 

Although this is a terrible outcome, we strongly believe our gene expression can be modified by good nutrition, diet, exercise, love, and more. 

My next posts will cover things that you can do to try and prevent this horrible disease. Doug and I are ready to take on this challenge and we will share everything we learn with you! So don't be afraid. Take the test (many companies offer it - 23 and me, Life Extension, LabCorp, to name a few.) It's good to know what hand you are dealt.

Remember, you can still be at risk for Alzheimer's even if you don't have the E4 allele. And having E4's doesn't necessarily mean you will get the disease. Your lifestyle is everything!