What You Need to Know About the APOE4 Gene and Alzheimer’s Disease


Did you ever notice that people have different eye or hair colors? It is all about genes. Genes are the building blocks of life that determine basic features like an individual’s eye color and hair color. From fundamental studies, we understand that our bodies are made up of genes that influence growth and development. However, there are certain types of genes that are linked with the risk of developing specific diseases.

Have you heard about the APOE4 gene and Alzheimer’s disease but do not understand their relationship or what they are? Understanding what the APOE4 gene is and how it relates to Alzheimer’s disease is essential in helping you avoid distress when such a diagnosis is made either for you or a loved one.

What is the APOE4 Gene?

Your body is made up of different genes inherited from your parents. One APOE gene is inherited from the mother and another from the father. Therefore, your body is comprised of two copies of the APOE gene. The risk lies in the fact that specific genes tend to raise the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease, and the APOE4 gene is the strongest risk factor gene for Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that a person with at least one copy of the APOE4 gene is 2-3 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Those with two copies of APOE4 genes have an 8-12 times risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the studies show that approximately 25% of people carry one copy of the APOE4 gene, while only 3% of the population carries two copies of the APOE4 gene.

The association of the APOE4 gene with the age of onset of common late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (AD) was originally reported in three 1993 papers from the Duke ADRC (Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center) group. (Source: National Library of Medicine)

A genetic test showing that you have one or even two copies of APOE4 genes does not, however, guarantee that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Medical experts have proven that the APOE4 gene affects risk but is not entirely the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly, Alzheimer’s disease has been diagnosed in many people who don’t have the APOE4 gene. Although the APOE4 gene increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, other genetic and environmental factors influence the development of the disease. If you are diagnosed with the APOE4 gene, you don’t need to get anxious or scared of developing Alzheimer’s. Instead, focus on understanding more about the condition so that you can prepare and manage it.

Paid Alzheimer’s Disease study for those with the APOE4/E4 gene. Click here for more information.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

According to the National Institutes of Health, Alzheimer’s disease “is a brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” People are alarmed and get anxious when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s because they do not understand what it is, its cause, and its effects. Here’s what you need to know to better understand the disease and its causes. 

Alzheimer’s disease is a common disease affecting the brain, causing irreversible dementia. It affects the brain by making it shrink and causing the death of brain cells. As a result, a person experiences slow destruction of memory and thinking skills. Alzheimer’s disease is a result of genetic risk factors. The APOE4 gene is a risk factor gene associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Young-onset Alzheimer’s appears between ages 30-60 years and is highly linked to one’s genes. Mutation of genes Amyloid precursor protein (APP), Presenilin 1 (PSEN1), and Presenilin 2 (PSEN2) causes early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. If a person inherits any of the mutated genes from either parent, they are at a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease at an early age, before 65 years.

The life expectancy after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is approximately 4-8 years. Since neither existence of APOE4 nor mutation genes is 100 percent proven to be the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are continuously conducting scientific research to identify more genes that are the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is, identifying all the genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease can hasten to develop new ways to treat or even prevent Alzheimer’s disease in the future.

Is Alzheimer’s disease Preventable?

The thought of losing one’s memory is scary. Everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to prevent such a health condition. But they probably don’t know where to start. Though our genes primarily cause Alzheimer’s disease and it feels like there is next to nothing that we can do to prevent it, there are two strategies we can apply to minimize its occurrence. The fact that having one or more copies of the APOE4 gene is not a guarantee that you will go on to develop Alzheimer’s is enough hope to do a few things to prevent its occurrence. Here are two tips to apply:

  • Give your brain a break

Always give your brain a rest. Consider reducing unnecessary stimuli, avoid unnecessary stress when you can, plan some downtime and take a digital detox once in a while. Such measures may have a significant impact over decades of your life.

  • Take care of your blood vessels

The APOE4 gene is encoded with a protein that causes damage to the capillaries in the brain. Any damage to brain capillaries leads to inflammation, which involves the death of brain cells and cognitive impairment. Therefore, staying healthy is vital in minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Bottom Line

Alzheimer’s disease affects the brain and causes dementia. The APOE4 gene is the strongest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. It can be scary to receive a health diagnosis showing that one has the APOE4 genes. Having one or more copies of the APOE4 gen does not mean you will develop Alzheimer’s. If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you should not panic. Developing a positive approach will help you prepare and eventually manage the condition.

Paid Alzheimer’s Disease study for those with the APOE4/E4 gene. Click here for more information.