Could You Be at a Decreased Risk for Alzheimer's?

Do an internet search of “genetics and dementia” and you’ll find a slew of information about how having a family history of Alzheimers disease increases your risk. But there’s been precious little published about whether certain inherited characteristics may actually reduce your risk of Alzheimers—until now.

Several years ago, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York identified a gene variant called cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) in a population of Ashkenazi Jews. CETP became known as the longevity gene due to its ability to increase levels of HDL, the so-called “good cholesterol.” Better HDL levels translates into a reduced risk of heart disease, which means a longer life. Now that same group of scientists has discovered that not only does CETP improve lifespan, it actually reduces the incidence of cognitive decline in older people.

In this latest study, 523 people of various ethnic backgrounds who were healthy and with no apparent signs of cognitive decline were looked at. All were at least 70 at the start of the study. Over the next four years, the researchers measured them for signs of cognitive decline and counted how many of them developed dementia. The results? Participants who possessed two copies of the CETP gene experienced a slower rate of memory loss than others and had a whopping 70 percent reduced risk of developing dementia and Alzheimers compared with participants who didn’t carry the CETP gene at all.

The good news for folks who don’t carry the CETP gene variant? New drugs are in development that will mimic this gene variant and hopefully offer protection from Alzheimers to many more older people.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine,