Alzheimer Disease Risk May Be Measurable in Adolescence and Early Adulthood 

  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Dementia
  • Early onset Alzheimer disease

According to data from multiple studies reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2020, risk factors for dementia from Alzheimer disease (AD) may be apparent as early as second or third decade of life. 

In  the study of healthy aging in African Americans (STAR), with more than 714 African American participants, researchers found that high blood pressure and diabetes or a combination of heart health-related factors were associated with worse cognition in later life. 
Study participants were adolescents (n=165; age 12-20 years), young adults (n=439; age 21-34 years) and adults (n=110; age 35-56). Cognition was measured using in-person tests of memory and executive function. 

Results from another study showed high body mass index (BMI) in adulthood (age 20-49) is a risk factor for dementia in later life. 
Another report included data from 5,104 older adults from 2 other studies, including 2,909 from the cardiovascular health study (CHS) and 2,195 from the health, aging, and body composition (Health ABC) study. Of the total sample, 18% were African Americans and 56% were women. 
Using pooled data from 4 established cohorts at various stages of adulthood, the scientists estimated BMI beginning at age 20 for all older adults in the CHS and Health ABC studies. 

For women in the study, the incidence of dementia correlated with higher BMI in early adulthood (odds ratio 1.8 for overweight and 2.5 for obesity). 
For men in the study, the odds ratio for dementia was 2.5 times higher among those who were obese in early adulthood, 1.5 times higher among those who were overweight in midlife, and 2.0 times higher among those who were obese in midlife. 

Another study provided evidence that later-life dementia risk and cognitive function are influenced by early-life state educational policies.A diverse group of more than 2,400 Black and White men and women, age 65 or more, and enrolled in the Washington Heights/Inwood Columbia Aging Project, who attended elementary school in the US were followed for up to 21 years. Having higher-quality early-life education correlated with better language and memory performance and lower risk of late-life dementia. 


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