When told they have a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, people may experience less distress if they learn that the same gene variant also increases their risk of heart disease. The gene, APOE, encodes for a protein that transports cholesterol in the bloodstream. People with one copy of the undesirable APOE variant, called e4, face double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease than those without that variant. They also have a slightly higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Learning about the heart-related risk appears to spur people to make healthy behavior changes, such as improving their diets, reducing their stress levels, and being more physically active.
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