What We Now Know About Alzheimer's That We Didn't Before
But we're getting better at identifying what contributes to it. Alzheimer's is distinguished from other kinds of dementia by the presence of two proteins in the brain: beta-amyloid, which forms clumps called plaques, and tau, which forms tangles. Experts have yet to nail down the origins of these proteins, but genetics and age-related brain changes likely play a role. Inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular problems, and high cholesterol may also increase the risk of developing the disease, says Ronald Petersen, MD, PhD, director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.