Family history is not always a factor when it comes to someone developing Alzheimer’s. There is, however, growing evidence that those who have a sibling or parent with Alzheimer’s are more at risk than those who don’t have a close relative with this condition. In fact, a new study published in Nature Genetics journal suggests that if you have a first-degree relative (i.e., a parent or a sibling) with Alzheimer’s, your likelihood of inheriting the disease is 60-80%.
The Role of Genes in Increasing Alzheimer’s Risk
Several genes increase the risk of Alzheimer’s to some extent, while some genes increase this risk significantly. Scientists have found that people who carry genes like TREM2 and ApoE4 (among others) have dramatically higher risk of cognitive decline and neurodegeneration, but these few genes don’t tell the whole story.
Alzheimer’s is defined by the buildup of neurofibrillary tangles (tau) and amyloid plaques inside the brain. When an abnormal amount of accumulation of proteins occurs in and around the brain cells, it is thought to lead to Alzheimer’s. The tau and amyloid are two of those proteins.
Some of the genes – or genetic mutations to be precise – contribute to this buildup. These include TREM2 variations and PSEN1. If you or a loved one is carrying these genetic markers, you have a much higher chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
Getting back to the question, is Alzheimer’s genetic? Not exactly. The specific role of neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques in development of the disease is still somewhat of a mystery. In other words, scientists have yet to figure out exactly what causes one to develop Alzheimer’s. There is no one gene that we can point at and hold responsible for causing this illness.
And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, in the majority of cases, genes have not been found to cause the disease at all!
The Genetic Determinants of Alzheimer’s We Know About
Science may not have all the answers yet, but we do know that certain genes almost definitely lead to Alzheimer’s. All of these genetic markers tend to increase the production of amyloid plaques early in life:
- PSEN1 (Presenilin 1)
- PSEN2 (Presenilin 2)
- Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP)
Generally speaking, presence of all three of these genes will lead to an early-onset of Alzheimer’s in an individual. The symptoms may show up between their late 30s and early 60s.
Genes are Not the Only Factor
Long story short, Alzheimer’s is an incredibly complex disease that is brought on by aging and a variety of environmental and genetic contributors. Although the role of Alzheimer’s genetic risk factors is not completely clear as of yet, several studies have found that lifestyle factors have a notable effect on its development.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, or you smoke excessively, you are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s. By simply changing your lifestyle to a healthier one, you can reduce your risk.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Care from Home to Stay Senior Care Solutions
At Home to Stay Senior Care Solutions, we are here to help those in southern and central New Jersey who are living with Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia. All of our caregivers are trained and experienced in caring for those affected by declining cognitive function. We offer dementia care, companion care, care management services, and more to help your loved one live safely and comfortably at home. To learn more, please fill out this short form or call us at 856-321-1500 or 732-820-9611.