Alzheimer's Disease, The Third Leading Cause of Death

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Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has been ranked the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. New research suggests the ways of identifying the causes of death had previously underestimated the impact of AD, a disease that robs memory and physical abilities in seniors (3). The Alzheimer’s Association says the disease cost the US $203 billion in 2013, and by 2025, an estimated 7.1 million people will suffer from the disease (12). Recent decades have focused on finding genetic causes. But now, researchers are looking at how environmental factors may interact with genetics. One genetic factor associated with late-onset AD is called apolipoprotein E (APOE), a gene on chromosome 19 that makes a protein that carries cholesterol and other types of fat in the blood stream. The APOE gene has 3 alleles. APOE2 appears to reduce the risk of AD while APOE3 doesn’t seem to affect the risk at all. But APOE4 is recognized to increase it. We inherit one APOE from our mother and one from our father. If we have one APOE4 gene, we are at risk. If we have two APOE4 genes, the risk is even higher. One environmental factor associated with AD is dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an insecticide that has saved millions of lives by controlling malaria. It was banned in the US in 1972, but traces are believed to linger. Last month, researchers at Rutgers University published new findings that exposure to DDE, the chemical compound that’s left when DDT breaks down, is linked to AD (4).
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