Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary? When a parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s common for other family members to worry about their own risk of inheriting the disease.
The concern is legitimate, however, there’s more to the story. Both early onset and age-related Alzheimer’s diagnoses can sometimes have a genetic component, but presence of that specific gene mutation is far from an accurate prediction. It’s just one potential factor among many, and it’s not even the most important one.
Should I be tested for Alzheimer’s?
Not everyone with the gene develops Alzheimer’s, and those without it can still be diagnosed with the disease, so most professionals advise against genetic testing, which can be very misleading (and expensive!).
The gene might signify some risk, but not a future diagnoses looming over your head.
It’s more likely to be a complex combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that impact someone’s risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Is it race or is it genetics?
Race may play a larger part than family genetics. The reason is not clear, but alz.org states that older Latinos and African-Americans are more likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias than older Caucasians. It could be related to the higher rates of vascular diseases in those groups.
Even if race or genetics does increase the risk, two or more family members over 65 can have the disease simply because it’s so common. Today, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s dementia every 66 seconds.
Interested in learning more? Read 10 unexpected factors that affect senior brain health to learn more about brain health, and the difference between successful aging and preventable decline.
What you can do
Increased risk factors are nothing to sneeze at, and can be a wonderful motivation to make some changes in what you CAN control.
Thankfully, two of above risks can be controlled: environment and lifestyle. We can’t do much about a genetic connection, of course, but diet, exercise, brain fitness, smoking, chemical exposures and other factors can be managed to reduce the odds.
Removing toxic chemicals from the home and garden or yard, reading labels on products and packaged foods to understand their impact, improving the nutritional value of foods we consume, quitting smoking and getting enough exercise all reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Managing other health diagnoses to reduce their risk is important, too, especially those that indicate poor blood circulation, such as diabetes, head injury, heart disease and stroke.
Rather than concerns of genetics determining our fate, taking control over our own daily choices is a smarter path to reducing risk. We have the power to deflect it, or bring the diagnosis to our own doorstep.
One last thought? If taking control isn’t enough to ease concerns about dementia or future costs of care as you age, a Life Care community might be the ideal choice. If you already know an independent living retirement community interests you, Life Care can add a guarantee of housing, assisted living and memory care at no extra cost, if that diagnosis does come your way.
The social aspect of a Life Care community is a critical piece of our life, too, and has been proven to enhance our health span. It has incredible impact on our physical and mental health. Like brain fitness, it can can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s.
Prevention is great, but planning ahead can be even better.
Ready to learn more about your retirement lifestyle options, and how it can pay for future care needs? Register for a Life Care workshop today and bring your questions! To speak to someone directly, please contact Jackie Lusson, our corporate director of sales, at 623-236-3767 or Jackie.Lusson@sunhealthsl.org.
(Originally published Feb. 6, 2018; last updated Jan. 11, 2019.)