Dr Zheng’s daughter is concerned about the implications of her father’s diagnosis and has made an appointment to see you. Please click on May’s questions to view appropriate responses.
Somebody from work told me that Alzheimer's disease is genetic. Does that mean that me or my children will get it too?
We have no relatives with dementia that I know of. My grandparents, aunts and uncles have not had this problem. What does this mean?
Is there anything we can do to prevent getting it?
Alzheimer's Disease is relatively common among older people regardless of family history. There is a type of AD called Familial Alzheimer's Disease, but this is very rare and is usually associated with earlier onset. When I spoke with your parents they did not seem to think there was any history of early onset memory problems in the family. Do you have other relatives with AD that you know of?
Your father is currently 71, so he didn't have an early onset of AD and with no other affected family members, it is very unlikely that you have inherited a strong genetic risk that predisposes you or your children to developing the disease.
At present there are no preventative measures that will give you 100% protection, but there guidelines for keeping your brain healthy and memory sharp in order to reduce risk of developing dementia. One of the most effective things you can do is to participate in regular physical activity. Half an hour of moderate intensity activity on most days of the week, such as a brisk walk, can have significant protective effects.
Other recommendations include:
Avoiding harmful substances such as excessive drinking or drug abuse
Challenging yourself by keeping mentally active and learning new skills
Relaxing and making sure you get adequate sleep
Eating a well-balanced diet
Lautenschlager NT, Cox KL, Flicker L, Foster JK, van Bockxmeer FM, Xiao J, Greenop KR, Almeida OP, 2009. Effect of physical activity on cognitive function in older adults at risk for Alzheimer disease: a randomized trial. JAMA, Jan 21;301(3):276.