Is Inheriting Alzheimer's Disease from Parents a Risk?

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a rare form of dementia compared to Alzheimer's disease or vascular dementia, but it can be passed down directly from parents to their children. This can cause a lot of worry for those who have children or grandchildren. Each person has one copy of the APOE gene from their mother and another from their father. Having at least one APOE e4 gene increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease two or three times. Some people have two APOE E4 genes, one from each parent.

This further increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, approximately eight to twelve times. Since Alzheimer's disease is so common in people in their 70s and 80s, having a parent or grandparent with Alzheimer's disease at this age does not change the risk compared to the rest of the population. The National Institute on Aging sponsors the Alzheimer's Disease Genetic Study, which looks at the genetic information of families that have at least two living family members who were diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease after age 65. If you are 65 years old, your risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease is 2% per year, although this also means that you have a 98% chance per year of not developing Alzheimer's disease. This interactive illustration highlights the chromosomes that contain each of the three genes that cause familial Alzheimer's disease and the gene that has the greatest impact on the risk of suffering from this condition. One of the active research trials is the Dominant Inherited Alzheimer's Network (DIAN), which studies people with dominant mutations in Alzheimer's disease (PSEN1, PSEN2, or APP).

The most common type of Alzheimer's disease usually starts after age 65, called late-onset Alzheimer's disease. For those who are concerned about inheriting Alzheimer's disease from their parents, it is important to understand that there are certain genetic factors that can increase your risk. The APOE e4 gene, which is inherited from both parents, can increase your risk two to three times if you have one copy and eight to twelve times if you have two copies. Additionally, if you have a family history of late-onset Alzheimer's disease, you may be at an increased risk as well. However, it is important to remember that even if you have these genetic factors, your risk is still relatively low compared to the general population. If you are concerned about your risk for developing Alzheimer's disease, it is important to talk to your doctor about your family history and any genetic testing that may be available.

Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and staying socially active.