There is one question that we get asked on a regular basis. Is dementia hereditary?
It’s not surprising that it’s a question people want an answer to especially with the growing number of people around the world developing diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, Vascular or one of the many other forms of dementias.
Many people, especially if a family member has a memory loss disease are worried that they can inherit dementia themselves. Could they also pass the condition on to their children through their genes?
So should we be worried about the fact that can dementia be inherited?
Is dementia passed on through our DNA?
Medical research seems to suggest that it is very unlikely that if a family member such as a parent or grandparent has developed dementia, that their children will also develop the disease at some stage in their life because of the genes that they have passed on.
This is not to say that somebody with Alzheimer’s is not able to pass on the disease from parent to child, in some rare cases (less than 1 in 1000 cases of Alzheimer’s) the disease can be inherited but this is rare.
There is a group of four genes a person can carry that can lead to a greater risk of Alzheimer’s. With 3 of the four genes (APP, PSEN-1 and PSEN-2) being responsible for early onset dementia in people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s with the other gene being responsible for Alzheimer’s in older people, usually over 65 years of age.
In the majority of cases of Alzheimer’s (the most common type of dementia) the disease is mostly associated with old age. Most cases are diagnosed with people in their 70’s and 80’s which is often referred to as Senile dementia.
Medical research on ‘is dementia hereditary’
Most researchers believe that dementia is caused by diseases that are a result of the lifestyle they lead rather than the DNA that they have inherited from their parents.
Although some conditions that can lead to diseases of the brain in later life can be inherited. Diseases such as Huntington’s are inherited diseases and other forms of dementia such as frontotemporal dementia’s have a greater risk of being inherited from parent to child by as much as 50%.
In general most dementia’s such as Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia are not inherited diseases and are a consequence of the lifestyles we choose to lead. Much more evidence is still needed to confirm this research.
Want to Know more about if you are at risk of developing dementia?
The Alzheimer’s Society have produced a factsheet on the subject of hereditary dementia and how you can reduce your risk of the disease.
You can download the factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society website here