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Risk factors for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects your brain, specifically your memory and cognitive abilities. It often affects a person’s behavior, personality, and communication skills. While there is no cure and researchers don’t know exactly what causes dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they have identified a few risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease.1
  • Age. The majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 or older and the risk for diagnosis increases as you age.  
  • Family history. Those who have a parent, brother, or sister with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop it than those who don’t. The risk increases if more than one family member has the disease. 
  • Race. In the US, older Hispanic adults are about 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than older White adults, and older Black adults are about 2 times more likely. 
  • Gender. Women are disproportionally affected, making up nearly 60% of American cases. 
  • Genetics. Genes have a large impact in Alzheimer’s. Variations in certain genes, for example the APOE gene, can increase the risk. Learn more about genetic testing
  • Heart-brain connection. Conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels (such as stroke and diabetes) are directly linked to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. 

Brain health tips: reduce your risks

Research has also shown that good lifestyle habits can help keep your brain healthy and may reduce your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Here are tips to help lower the risk of cognitive decline.2 
  • Exercise regularly. Studies have found an association between physical activity and brain health. 
  • Take a class. Formal education in any stage of life can help reduce risks of cognitive decline. 
  • Stop smoking. Quitting can reduce the cognitive decline risks comparable to those who haven’t smoked. 
  • Keep your heart healthy. Cardiovascular disease risks such as obesity and high blood pressure may also impact brain health. 
  • Avoid head injuries. Wear a seatbelt and use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike. 
  • Eat healthy. A diet lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. 
  • Get some sleep. Insomnia, sleep apnea or other sleep issues may result in memory and thinking problems. 
  • Stay mentally fit. Seek medical treatment for depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns. 
  • Stay socially engaged. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you, like volunteering or singing in a choir. 
  • Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture, complete a jigsaw puzzle, or play games that make you think strategically. 

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More to explore

1. "2023 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures," Alzheimer's Association, 2023, 2. “New Year: 10 Ways to Keep Your Brain Sharp,” United Brain Association, February 13, 2020,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.