The Science Behind Dementia and Genetics

Many people with dementia in their families are concerned that they may inherit the disease or pass it down to future generations. However, the reality is that most dementia types are not genetically distributed.

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Let’s look at the science behind dementia and the concerns over it being a hereditary disease.

The Different Types of Dementia

The word “dementia” is a term to describe many different symptoms — for example, memory loss and cognitive decline — caused by abnormal brain changes. There are several types of the disease, from the well-known Alzheimer’s disease to the lesser-known Huntington’s disease, which affects about 350 people in the US each year.

It’s essential to be aware of the type of dementia that potentially runs in your family because the chances of it being heredity are scarce. For example, in most Alzheimer’s disease cases, the disease is not inherited — more than 99 in 100 cases of Alzheimer’s are not passed down.

The Lesser-Known Types of Dementia

Knowing that the chances of developing Alzheimer’s from genetics are very slim is excellent news, but what about the other dementia types? Let’s examine different types of dementia to assess the science behind their genetics and ability to pass down through family generations.

Vascular Dementia

The good news is that in most cases, vascular dementia isn’t inherited through genetics. However, the underlying health problems that often contribute to this type of dementia, such as diabetes, stroke, or high blood pressure, have been known to pass on from one generation to another.

For such reasons, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as staying physically active and eating well, is critical for preventing vascular dementia. If there is a history of high blood pressure, stroke, or diabetes in your family, live your life as healthy and active as possible.

Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

While it’s rare to develop FTD, the disease can be passed directly from parent to child. About 40 percent of people with the condition will have at least one close relative with dementia. For example, this can include FTD, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s disease. Typically, the more significant number of relatives who have had dementia — mostly ALS or FTD — the greater the chances of getting ‘familial’ FTD.

Rare Types of the Disease

There are other, rarer types of dementia, including Familial Prion disease and Huntington’s disease. Such conditions have a 50/50 chance of passing on to family members because faulty ‘dominant’ genes cause them. This means that if you receive a healthy gene from one of your parents and a defective gene from the other, the faulty will always be the one that’s used as it’s the dominant gene.

If your parents develop a rare form of dementia, definitely keep this in mind and talk to your doctor about what you can do to prepare for the future. For example, you’ll want to consider dementia care in your home from a home healthcare agency as a means of helping you live a happy and fulfilling life as you age.

Dementia is a complicated illness, and it requires quite a bit of research to understand it genuinely. Always speak to your trusted health professional to help you understand the complexities and challenges of the disease.

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