Are Dementia and Alzheimer’s Hereditary?

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Alzheimer’s disease is one of many forms of dementia. Dementia is a general syndrome which includes Alzheimer’s and other similar symptomatic conditions. Vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), mixed dementia and Parkinson’s disease are other conditions which cause symptoms sometimes similar to Alzheimer’s.

While there are tens of millions of people around the world suffering from some form of dementia, the majority of those, roughly 60% to 70%, have been specifically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Any disease or affliction which causes damage to the nervous system can result in dementia symptoms. Memory loss, cognitive problems, issues with communication and speech are all signs that something may have caused dementia.

Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia usually affect those over 50 or 60 years of age, and when someone passes those hallmarks of aging, they may begin to wonder if dementia is a hereditary condition, especially if their parents or grandparents suffered from this debilitating condition.

Dementia Is Rarely Inherited

Dementia in the family tree may accompany a personal diagnosis. If this happens, that person may be concerned that they could be predisposed to passing this condition along to their children. The good news is that, in almost all cases, dementia is not inherited.

However, this depends on the type of dementia that is involved. Huntington’s disease can cause dementia symptoms, and it is definitely something which can be inherited.

In a contrasting scenario, mental health experts tell us that a full 99% of Alzheimer’s cases have nothing to do with a person’s hereditary makeup. It is true that if your parents and/or grandparents developed Alzheimer’s you are slightly more at risk than if this was not the case.

However, this has more to do with the fact that the longer you live, the risk of you developing Alzheimer’s is raised, rather than because of genetics.

If the people that passed on your family genes consistently lived past 80 years of age, the odds are that you will as well. This is often because they passed on healthy living practices that mean you have a good chance to live longer than the average Joe.

The 80-year hallmark is where incidence rates of Alzheimer’s rise dramatically. That having been said, there is an incredibly small amount of people that suffer a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s than others, because this issue is directly linked to hereditary factors.

Less than 1% of all undiagnosed Alzheimer’s patients have one of three genes which have been linked to early onset Alzheimer’s. When the APP, PS1 and PS2 genes are present, Alzheimer’s can begin to become an issue when a person is in their 30s or 40s, and this issue is often inherited. Alzheimer’s is usually a condition which does not present itself until a person has passed the 60 or 70 or 80-year mark.

In the case where those specific genes are identified, that same issue can be passed to future generations, and was often present in previous ancestors. It bears repeating that this is an extremely rare condition. Aside from Huntington’s disease, the rare Alzheimer’s exceptions and a small number of Lew body dementia cases, dementia is not an inherited problem.

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