Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?
If one of your parents or grandparents developed Alzehimer’s in their later years, you might be wondering about your risk for developing the disease. Although a family history of Alzheimer’s is not needed for someone to eventually suffer from this disease, research has shown that those with a parent or sibling who had Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop it themselves. Other factors, including environmental influences, age, and overall health also play a role in determining your Alzheimer’s risk.
The Link Between Alzheimer’s and Genetics
One of the top risk factors for Alzheimer’s is family history. A person with a first degree family relation (parent or sibling) who developed Alzheimer’s is more likely to develop Alzheimer’s themselves than a person with no family history of the disease.
Hereditary Alzheimer’s genes can be found in each of the two categories of genes that influence whether a person will develop a disease: risk genes and deterministic genes. Researchers have discovered the risk gene APOE-e4 is the one the the biggest impact on eventual disease development. Approximately 40-65% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have this gene. It’s important to note that risk genes do not guarantee you will develop a disease, but they do increase the likelihood.
On the other hand, deterministic genes do directly cause a disease. If you inherit the gene, you will develop the disorder associated with it. While rare, deterministic genes for Alzheimer’s do exist. These genes represent 1% or less of all cases of Alzheimer’s, causing early-onset of the disease, usually in a person’s 40s or 50s.
Other Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s
Contrary to what many assume, genetics are not the only risk factor for Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found a number of things that increase the risk of developing not only Alzheimer’s, but other forms of dementia as well. These risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Being overweight or obese
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Lack of physical activity
- Social isolation
As with so many diseases, maintaining a healthy diet, regular physical activity, and having a strong social network are ways a doctor might advise you to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
DNA Testing for Alzheimer’s
If you’re concerned about any of your risk factors for Alzheimer’s, including family history, you should first speak with your doctor. They can advise you on how to minimize your risk, and might refer you to a genetic counselor for testing. It’s important to have expert guidance as you navigate the process of genetic testing for the genes that increase your chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
If you’ve already taken an at-home DNA test and found results that suggest a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s, bring those results to your doctor to discuss additional testing options and any needed next steps.
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