Is Alzheimer’s Hereditary?

Is Alzheimer's Disease Hereditary? - Seniors Lifestyle Magazine

NATIONWIDE, THERE ARE 5.8 million people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association – and the number is expected to balloon to 14 million by 2050. In large part, the increase is attributable to the nation’s aging population, as age is a risk factor for getting Alzheimer’s. The degenerative disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., responsible for more deaths than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. 

Researchers believe there’s no one cause of Alzheimer’s. “A significant challenge to better treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease is that we don’t know exactly what causes it – but researchers believe it is complex and involves multiple factors,” says Keith N. Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach at the Alzheimer’s Association. Researchers suspect the disease develops from an array of factors that include advancing age, genetics, lifestyle, environment and co-existing medical conditions like diabetes. Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, Fargo says. Plaques are deposits of a protein fragment that build up in the spaces between nerve cells. Tangles are twisted fibers of a protein called tau that build up inside cells. Most experts believe plaques and tangles play a critical role in blocking communication among brain cells and disrupting processes that the cells need to survive, 

Fargo says. 

Heredity is definitely a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. However, a small percentage of Alzheimer’s cases are caused by heredity alone, researchers believe. Alzheimer’s is by far the most common type of dementia; it accounts for 60% to 80% of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Here are some major risk factors for Alzheimer’s:

Strategies to Slow the Onset of Alzheimer’s

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, and you can’t dodge the hereditary component because you can’t choose your parents. However, there are strategies you can undertake to slow its onset, Tesi says:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don’t smoke. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Remain socially engaged.

By Ruben Castaneda