Is There a Genetic Link to Alzheimer's in Families?

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Is There a Genetic Link to Alzheimer's in Families?
Alzheimer’s researchers at leading institutions, such as the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have long been exploring the causes and potential treatments for the disease. While no definitive conclusions have been reached, they do feel they have made some progress.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder. It is believed to be caused by the development of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain which causes a loss of connectivity between neurons (nerve cells). Eventually these nerve cells die and lead to the development of Alzheimer’s.

Late-onset Alzheimer’s is the most common and affects people age 65 and over. Early-onset Alzheimer’s can develop in people as early as their 30s and 40s, but it typically only occurs in about five percent of all people with Alzheimer’s.

Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s

Researchers believe the three top risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are age, family history and lifestyle. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Age: As mentioned earlier, a small number of individuals are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This form of the disease affects people younger than age 65. But these are rare occurrences. The Alzheimer’s Association says that as people grow older, their odds of developing Alzheimer’s increases significantly. In fact, nearly one out of three people age 85 or older has a dementia-related disorder.

Family history: If an individual has a parent, sibling, or child who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, there is a higher risk that the person will also develop it. If more than one person in the family has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, this chance increases further. Along those same lines, genetics may also influence whether someone develops Alzheimer’s. Two types in particular may run in families:

  • Risk genes. Like their name suggests, risk genes increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s. The APOE-e4 gene (apolipoprotein E-34) is said to cause nearly ¼ of all Alzheimer’s cases.
  • Deterministic genes. These are direct factors in disease development. An individual who has such genes will very likely be diagnosed with this brain disorder.

Lifestyle: Newer research shows the importance a healthy lifestyle may play in preventing Alzheimer’s. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein may help keep Alzheimer’s at bay. As can getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and keeping diabetes well-managed may also lower your risk.

Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living

If a family member has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you don’t have to tackle their care on your own. Contact the Five Star Senior Living community nearest you to learn about the benefits of our memory care programs.