Risk Factors

When it comes to AD and risk factors, you need to understand the difference between correlation and causation. For example, diabetes is one of the risk factors for developing AD is diabetes. This does not mean that diabetes causes AD, and not all people with diabetes develop AD. That in mind, the risk factors associated with AD include:


More than 40 percent of people age 85 and older may have AD. Symptoms of AD usually begin after age 60. However, AD is not a normal part of aging. It is a disease.


A parent with AD is one of the main risk factors for developing AD.


Women are slightly more likely to get Alzheimer's disease than men.

Diabetes Mellitus

Recent studies suggest diabetes may be associated with an increased risk of AD.

High Levels of Homocysteine

A building block of protein, called homocysteine (an amino acid), circulates in the blood. Studies suggest high homocysteine levels are a risk factor AD, vascular dementia, cognitive impairment, and stroke.

Psychological and Experiential Factors

Mounting research indicates psychological and experiential factors may increase one’s risk of AD; for example, social isolation and not regularly participating in brain-stimulating activities.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

About 40 percent of people with MCI develop AD within three years—which means people with MCI may or may not progress to AD. MCI is still being explored by scientists, but they know this much:  

  • It’s a clinical condition in which people experience memory loss greater than expected for their age.
  • The memory loss is enough to be noticed and measured.
  • The deficit is not enough to compromise a person’s independence. In other words, they can take care of themselves and conduct their normal activities.

MCI memory problems may include: 

  • losing things often
  • forgetting to go to events and appointments
  • having more trouble coming up with words than other people of the same age

Poor Diet, Lack of Exercise, and Smoking

A healthy diet, regular exercise, and not smoking all impact your physical and emotional health. These lifestyle choices are believed to play an ancillary role in the development of AD. Additionally, several recent studies suggest that smoking may significantly increase the risk of mental decline and dementia.

Down Syndrome

Studies show that people with Down syndrome are more likely to develop the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease (i.e., amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles).