My mother is in her mid-eighties and has been getting progressively more forgetful, but my father and mother just won’t admit it. My mother is currently going through some diagnostic testing. Our situation is very worrisome from a lot of vantage points. Can you tell me if Alzheimer’s is hereditary? – Joan K. from Greenwich, Conn.
I’ve done some research to answer your question, There has been a lot of speculation in the medical community about this little understood disease and the possibility of predicting the chances of contracting Alzheimer’s through heredity.
One study I found conducted by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University looked at brain scans of more than 250 adults aged 55 to 89. Some had no signs of memory or thinking problems, while others did. They also analyzed genes and other markers in spinal fluid that are known to help predict Alzheimer’s risk.
The study showed in the case of early onset Alzheimer’s, you might be more likely to contract the disease if an immediate family member is stricken. However, it is not as clear-cut when it comes to later-onset Alzheimer’s, as in your mother’s case.
Although the study found an association between having a family history of Alzheimer’s and showing brain changes related to the disease, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
So, Joan, there is no conclusive evidence that you will follow in your mother’s footsteps. However, if you are still concerned, there are things you can do to lower risk.
- Exercise regularly and eat a low fat diet.
- Stay connected & maintain a social life.
- Participate in creative activities like painting, singing or acting.
- Challenge your brain with crossword puzzles & other memory games.
- Learn new things such as a foreign language, a new form of bridge or ballroom dancing.
- Meditate daily.
I hope you find these tips helpful. I’m always here if you need me.