“I will be turning sixty-five in a couple of months and the thought of any kind of dementia scares the living daylights out of me.”
‘I am 62 years old and really concerned as the life of the mind is everything to me.’
Have YOU ever felt like that?
Someone in your family has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
And you are scared that YOU will get it too?
Here are the facts as they are known now.
Alzheimer’s disease is not usually hereditary.
In 99% of the cases Alzheimer’s is not caused by the genes received from a person’s parents. Professor Nick Fox, Institute of Neurology, London
Even if several members of a family have in the past been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease, this does not mean that a further member of the family will necessarily develop it.
The dominant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is age; so everyone risks developing the disease at some time. The odds are only marginally increased by having a parent or grandparent with Alzheimer’s disease.
It is now known that there is a gene, which can affect this risk. This gene is found on chromosome 19 and it is responsible for the production of a protein called apolipoprotein E (ApoE). There are three main types of this protein, one of which (ApoE4), although uncommon, makes it more likely that Alzheimer’s disease will occur.
However, it does not cause the disease, but merely, for a person aged 50, increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease from the usual 1 in 1,000 to 2 in 1,000. And that 50-year-old might never actually develop it. Only half of people with Alzheimer’s disease have ApoE4 and not everyone with ApoE4 suffers from it.
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Some (rare) causes of dementia are very clearly ‘inherited’, for example Huntington’s disease. This is an ‘autosomal dominant’ disease which means that only one faulty copy of the gene is needed in order to inherit the disease.
If you have inherited the gene you will get the disease if you live long enough. It does not skip a generation. Some other dementias have both inherited and non-inherited forms. In the case of fronto-temporal dementias, 30 to 50 per cent of cases are inherited.
Remember, most cases of Alzheimer’s disease are NOT inherited.