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Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic?

When a family member receives an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, it has an emotional impact on the whole family. It can bring forth a lot of difficult emotions, decisions, and questions. As your parent or loved one starts facing the challenges that come with memory loss, you might start asking yourself important questions regarding their diagnosis.

  • What exactly is Alzheimer’s disease?
  • How will I take care of them as their condition progresses?
  • What is the best care option for them?
  • Because my parent/relative has Alzheimer’s disease, does that mean I will get it too?

Because Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia are becoming more prevalent in adults 65 and older, Franklin Park® Senior Living, a memory care provider in San Antonio, Texas, wants to share information on the link between genetics and Alzheimer’s disease and what it means for you and your family.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.”

Alzheimer’s disease, along with other types of dementia, is a progressive condition, with symptoms worsening over time. Even though Alzheimer’s disease affects every individual differently, there are common symptoms that signify the onset of the condition, including:

  • Memory loss that affects daily life
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language (speaking and writing)
  • Confusion with time and place
  • Impaired judgment
  • Changes in mood or personality

In addition to common symptoms, there are also risk factors that include a person’s likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is increasing age, but genetics can also play a part.

Understanding Genetics

To fully understand how Alzheimer’s disease can be passed down through generations, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of how genetics work. Each person has two copies of every gene, one inherited from each parent. These genes determine your basic characteristics – from your eye color and height to whether or not you are at risk for certain diseases.

Two categories of genes can influence if you will develop a particular disease: risk genes and deterministic genes.

Risk Genes: These genes increase the likelihood of developing a specific disorder but do not necessarily guarantee it. It is estimated that 40-65% of those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have a risk gene.

Deterministic Genes: These genes are a direct cause of certain diseases and conditions, guaranteeing that anyone who inherits these genes will develop a disorder. Deterministic genes are extremely rare and only account for less than 1% of all Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses. When they do appear, the disease is usually early-onset, meaning that the person will develop the condition in their 40s or 50s.

The Genetic Link to Alzheimer’s Disease

When understanding if Alzheimer’s is genetic, it is important to realize that there is still a lot of research to be done in this area, and experts are gaining new insights every day. However, there are a few instances in which both risk and deterministic genes can be looked at to determine your chances of developing the condition.

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease occurs when someone younger than 65 is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This condition is rare – consisting of only about 5% of all Alzheimer’s disease cases. This form is more commonly caused by familial history and deterministic genes. If you have inherited a mutated deterministic gene from either parent, there is a strong chance that you will experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease before age 65.

Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is the more common form of the condition in which symptoms develop in those 65 and older. While late-onset Alzheimer’s disease is also associated with family history, there is less of a connection between genetics and this form.

A family history of Alzheimer’s does not always mean an individual will develop the disease. That said, those who have a close blood relative with Alzheimer’s disease may be at higher risk. Alternatively, having no family history does not mean that an individual will not get Alzheimer’s disease.

The Truth About Alzheimer’s Genetic Testing

Genetic testing can help identify mutated genes and risks for certain disorders that can be prevented or treated, but when it comes to genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease, support is not quite universal.

In some cases, it can be appropriate to be tested for the presence of the deterministic genes that will cause Alzheimer’s disease. However, since there is currently no cure for the condition, some people believe that there are not a lot of valid reasons for this testing unless it is to participate in research trials. Currently, most experts do not recommend routine genetic testing for Alzheimer’s disease as the results have no practical impact on medical treatment or healthcare decisions.

What You Can Do

Even though it can be alarming to know that Alzheimer’s disease runs in your family, you can incorporate lifestyle changes and activities to support brain health.

Get Plenty of Exercise

According to the NHS, “a lack of regular physical activity can increase your risk of heart disease, becoming overweight or obese, and type 2 diabetes, which are all linked to a higher risk of dementia. Older adults who do not exercise are also more likely to have problems with memory or thinking (known as cognitive ability).”

Try a variety of activities that include aerobic and strength training exercises. The key to staying active is finding an activity you enjoy!

Eat a Balanced, Healthy Diet

The Alzheimer’s Society states, “eating a healthy, balanced diet may reduce your risk of dementia, as well as other conditions including cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, stroke, and heart disease.”

However, balance and consistency are key for promoting brain health. For instance, aim to eat more whole grains, fruits, leafy green vegetables, oily fish, vegetable and plant oils, etc. Additionally, limit items such as sugar, processed foods, salt, and solid fats.

Keep Your Mind Stimulated

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “engaging in mental or social activities may help to build up your brain’s ability to cope with disease, relieve stress, and improve your mood. This means doing these activities may help to delay, or even prevent, dementia from developing.”

Types of activities that keep your mind active and stimulated include:

  • Learning something new
  • Arts and crafts
  • Brainteasers – jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, sudoku, etc.
  • Card games, chess, or board games
  • Journaling
  • Reading
  • Socializing with friends and family

Memory Care in San Antonio

At Franklin Park® Senior Living, we provide an inviting, comfortable, and, most of all, safe atmosphere for our memory care residents. We achieve this by creating an aesthetically pleasing environment that optimizes our residents’ physical, mental, and emotional health.

Our memory care team is made up of dedicated caregivers who specialize in caring for individuals with dementia-related conditions. They are respectful and empathetic and understand the unique needs associated with caring for people with memory loss and related dementia symptoms.

Our Refreshing Waters® Memory Care program provides a purpose-built environment designed to enhance daily routines and allows residents to continue life’s journey confidently and comfortably while surrounded by people who truly care for them.

Our Memory Care Services and Amenities

Our memory care communities feature carefully designed vibrant spaces because we know residents value living in a place that values them. These features include well-lit pathways, shadow boxes for reminiscence and personal mementos, and carefully planned floor plans that allow residents to experience the best things about Franklin Park® Senior Living while remaining comfortable and assured.

Because residents are our top priority, each amenity and feature in our memory care communities was crafted to help our residents accomplish their goals and succeed. Our memory care neighborhoods are designed to enhance familiarity, safety, routine, and comfort. We are committed to making every resident feel at home. Memory care amenities and services include:

  • Three healthy meals a day and snacks
  • Lifecare memory stations
  • Outdoor courtyard
  • Housekeeping and laundry services
  • Social, mental, and spiritual services
  • Transportation services

As you navigate through a family member’s Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, take time to understand the role that genetics plays in this condition. Knowing your family history can allow you to take some measures to encourage brain health for yourself and even your children. As more genetic and environmental research is carried out, we believe there will be a cure to end Alzheimer’s disease.

Our Franklin Park® Senior Living team is proud to offer exceptional memory care for adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. We are committed to understanding the unique needs and challenges of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and providing peace of mind to their families.

If you would like to learn more about our communities and the memory care services we provide in San Antonio, Texas, we invite you to visit our website or contact a member of our team.

Updated: April 2023