Is Dementia Hereditary? | 8 Risk Factors for Dementia
Is dementia hereditary? It is an understandable concern for most families with older adults. Here’s what you need to know.
Does Dementia Run in Families? and Other Pressing Questions
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for conditions that involve the deterioration in:
- ability to perform daily tasks
It’s not a single disease but a syndrome that includes Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form.
Dementia is a common condition among older people, but it’s not inevitable in the aging process. Older people may live out their golden years without developing the syndrome. You may forget where you placed your car keys, but this is normal for elders.
Elders could lose their independence, and this may have a significant impact on the family. A 2017 study estimates that it affects four to five million in the US.
Because it’s hard on the family and the older generation, it becomes everyone’s concern.
Is Dementia Hereditary?
Most cases of dementia are not hereditary. It also differs in the form of dementia.
In most cases, it is not inherited.
Age is a more significant risk factor. It’s more common for people in their 70s or 80s, but their grandchildren may not develop it. But if a grandparent develops Alzheimer’s disease before this age, there is a greater chance that it may be passed down.
Family history may also increase your chance of developing this form of dementia. If your parents have Alzheimer’s, your likelihood grows by 10% to 30%.
Researchers found that the gene APOE e4 could be a marker for Alzheimer’s disease. However, note that even if the genes are present, it does not mean that you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
It simply means that you may have a higher chance of developing it.
In most cases, it is not inherited.
However, risk factors that can increase your likelihood to develop vascular dementia are genetic. These include diabetes and high blood pressure.
Keeping your heart healthy is the best way to lower your chance of developing dementia.
Yes, it was recently considered highly heritable.
A 2019 study found that 30% of patients have a strong family history. Forty percent of patients with frontotemporal dementia have close relatives with a form of dementia. It may also develop at different ages for each patient within the family.
Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)
Not much is known about this form of dementia, but research shows that it may be hereditary. Note, however, that in most cases, there is no known cause.
No evidence suggests that lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing LBD. But it may reduce your risk for other forms of dementia.
There are rarer types of dementia that may also be passed down. These include:
- Young-onset Alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Familial prion disease
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to share information, and should not be taken as medical advice.
Risk Factors To Consider
You may be fortunate enough to have a healthy family history, but other factors may increase your likelihood.
Below are the risk factors for dementia:
- Age – It is the foremost risk factor. But keep in mind that dementia is not standard in aging.
- Family History – Evidence shows that dementia may be genetically linked. However, it is not a guarantee that you will develop the condition.
- Heart Health – High cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking may increase your chance. High blood pressure and diabetes are hereditary.
- Traumatic Brain Injury – Repeated or severe injury may increase your likelihood of developing dementia. Studies show that it may lower the onset age for dementia.
Other risk factors include:
- low educational attainment
- lack of social interaction
- cognitive inactivity
If you have a strong family history and possess the risk factors, you may want to note symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Dementia?
The progression is different for everyone, but it is widely accepted that dementia may develop in three stages.
It’s easy to miss out on the signs in the early stage since they are subtle and gradual.
- getting lost in familiar places
- losing track of time
The symptoms become more distinct and may interfere more with daily activities.
- forgetting names and events
- getting lost at home
- having trouble communicating
- requiring help with personal care
- changes in behavior (i.e. wandering, asking many questions)
In this stage, the patient will become dependent on caregivers or family members. Patients will also experience difficulty with motor skills.
- unaware of the time and location
- difficulty recognizing family and friends
- more need for assistance with personal care
- difficulty walking
- behavioral changes, aggression
Is It Preventable?
There is no known cure or drug to absolutely prevent dementia.
There are limited studies that show that eating right may help reduce your risk.
The Mediterranean Diet, which focuses on heart health, may lower your risk of dementia or slow cognitive decline. The MIND Diet, made for the mind and heart, may slow age-related cognitive decline and reduce Alzheimer’s disease risk.
Exercising your mind and body may keep dementia at bay. Taking care of your body by not smoking and controlling your weight may also give you a fighting chance.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A neurologist specializes in the brain and is the best person to get you an accurate diagnosis. There are other brain disorders with similar symptoms as dementia. During your consultation, your doctor may be able to rule these out.
Prepare your medical history before you visit your doctor. This will include your family history or when you first noticed some changes. Let your doctor know what medication you may be taking as these may worsen your symptoms.
You may take a physical exam to evaluate your vital signs, and a neurological test will assess your cognitive functions.
- Cognitive and neuropsychological tests to evaluate your cognitive functions.
- Lab tests may help rule out other possible causes for your symptoms
- Brain scans include CT scans, MRI, or PET, which can spot tumors, strokes, and other causes of dementia.
- Psychiatric evaluations may help rule out other underlying causes like depression.
- Genetic tests may help pinpoint genes that cause dementia and help identify your risk.
Is It Treatable?
Unfortunately, there are still no cures for dementia. There is no way to reverse the death of a brain cell. Some medicines can help manage symptoms, but none can stop or slow their development.
Because the causes of dementia are different for each type, each form is likely to have its separate cure, if any.
Is Dementia Hereditary?
So is dementia hereditary? In a nutshell, not all forms of dementia are not hereditary. If you do not have a family history, there are still other risk factors to note. Eating healthily and keeping your mind and body active may be the best way to keep dementia at bay.
Because the older generation is growing, scientists estimate that by 2050, the number of cases could increase three times. Fortunately, we continue to learn more about the syndrome. We’re also better at treating heart conditions, which could lower the risk for dementia.
Check out this video for foolproof ways to keep your brain healthy and to know about the question “is dementia hereditary”?
The more important concern is not to answer the question “is dementia hereditary” instead, knowing what are the risk factors and how to handle them properly is what you should focus on.
Medical science continues to advance each year. The more we learn about dementia, the better we can treat, or better yet, prevent it.
Is dementia hereditary or not? We’d love to know your thoughts, share them below.
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