A few months ago I decided to finally take a risk and do the 23andMe health test to see if I have the APOE4 gene, the gene that is most referred to as being a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Before I get into that, let me give you a little back story.
My maternal grandmother was diagnosed with dementia in her 70’s or 80’s, I don’t quite remember, I just knew it was “normal” timing. My mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her late 40’s. She died at 56. It has been indicated that dementia and Alzheimer’s can be hereditary.
I used to worry about being like my mother and developing early onset Alzheimer’s. I was paranoid about leaving Eddie and our kids before I was 60. I didn’t want young children to see their mother with Alzheimer’s. It isn’t something that is easy to deal with. When kids became a thing that is no longer in our future, some of the anxiety lightened up. I didn’t think about it as often.
Then I found Genius Foods by Max Lugavere. His story resonated with me and the changes he made gave me new information on how to improve my life in the pursuit of delaying or preventing Alzheimer’s. I lost a lot of the fear I had. I started learning more and more. And I still have a lot to learn.
My new found comfort with having the potential knowledge of whether or not I have the gene gave me what I needed to order the test. And black Friday sales.
I spit in the tube and sent it in. I actually started getting excited to know. It was going to give me direction on my thoughts. It was going to change nothing and everything.
I received the results and they show that I have one variant of the APOE4 gene. Only one variant. That barely increases my chances and I’m comfortable with that knowledge. Shortly after I received my test results, I found a podcast by Max Lugavere that gave me even more information that I needed. On the Genius Life podcast episode 80, Max interviewed Dr. Richard Isaacson from Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian.
One in four people carry the APOE4 gene. That makes a lot of people squeamish and for once I can say I am not one of those people. In a new review paper in the Journal of the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease, Dr. Isaacson along with a couple others, discussed how using the APOE4 gene can help personalize or guide risk-reduction care for Alzheimer’s disease.
The things that Dr. Isaacson talked about that resonated with me the most are about smoking and physical activity. Smoking seems to press fast-forward towards Alzheimer’s disease. Also, those who are sedentary have higher amyloid levels. I don’t want to get into any of the medical facts because I will not regurgitate them very well, but these two things are things that I can speak to.
You see, my mother smoked for many, many years. So did her mother. And my mother was not very active. She didn’t take care of herself. I know, these are just two factors in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But, these are two factors that I think, yes my opinion, can change the trajectory of my risk.
Having the variant of the APOE4 gene shows me that I am at a higher risk than most people. That’s okay, because we are in an age of information that I can find and use to change how I live my life. I’ve already made changes. I get up and move. I try to not be sedentary for hardly any time. I don’t smoke. I did a little in high school, but not very much and I haven’t in years. I even try not to be around cigarette smoke. I have made nutritional changes, and continue to.
Finding out that I have a variant of the APOE4 gene is not a death sentence for me. It really isn’t a death sentence for anybody. It is merely knowledge that we can use to change our current habits for the better. It is knowledge that can help us to take better care of ourselves.
Have you ever wondered if you have the Alzheimer’s gene? Are you fearful of Alzheimer’s? Let’s get the conversation started in the comments.
Here are the links for the sources I mentioned above.