Is Dementia Hereditary?

Is dementia hereditary? We take a lok at how DNA could play a part

Is dementia hereditary?

Is dementia hereditary? This is one question that we get asked on a regular basis.

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 dementia can be passed on through our DNA. But in rare cases, some diseases that lead to dementia can be passed on through our DNA. But it is still extremly rare that if a family member such as a parent or grandparent has developed one of the many different kinds of dementia, that their children will inherit the disease at some stage in their life.

This is not to say that somebody with Alzheimer’s cannot have not passed on the disease from parent to child. It is possible they could have. In some rare cases of Alzheimer’s, (less than 1 in 1000 cases) the disease can be inherited from a parent. But this is very 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’

Researchers believe that dementia is caused by diseases that are a result of the lifestyle they lead. Rather than developing dementia from the DNA that they have inherited from their parents.

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. The facsheet includes how you can reduce your risk of the disease. You can download the factsheet from the Alzheimer’s Society website here.


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  • cecilia caldwell

    I have an aunt that started having problems with speech process. She knew the word she wanted to say but could not say it. It progressed and she became some what confused or forgetful. Then her limbs were affected first upper body, and then lower body. She hardly ever opens her eyes, she as a tick. or her arms and hads jerk sporatically, and now she can not do any ADL’S and is in a rest home. Is this lewy body dementia. It sounds like it to me and I thought I read that there was a test to see if her family carries the gene. This all started after 65 years of age. MRI of brain showed that her brain was deterating. I had other aunts to have dementia but there limbs were not affected and occured later in life.
    Could you tell me the name of the test to check to see if it is genetically passed.

    • Hello Cecilia,
      Im sorry about your and your Aunt’s situation. Not sure whether I can help with the test you are looking for but I would recommend speaking to her doctor.
      It might help if you have a look at the lewy body dementia website that is below. They might have more information for you and they do have a helpline that you may want to ring.
      Im sorry I can’t help further.
      We have many organizations that help with dementia on our dementia groups page. You may find more help there.
      Good luck

      To contact the Lewy Body Society please
      Telephone – 0131 473 2385

  • Marilyn Vassallo

    There is a dominant gene and a recessive gene involved in Alzheimers.
    The dominant gene causes early onset Alzheimers. If your parent has the dominant gene, there is a 50/50 chance of getting Alzheimers. The recessive gene is also hereditary but I do not know the statistics of inheriting the disease from the recessive gene.

    • john

      Hello Marilyn, Thats interesting.
      I don’t suppose you have the name of the gene?

  • Jeana

    You get a lot of respect from me for writing these helpful arlitces.

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