Alzheimer’s is a pretty difficult disease to manage. It can affect the entire thinking process, cause dementia and eventually lead to death. The patients need constant attention.
It is understandable that anyone with a family history of Alzheimer’s would be worried about inheriting it, or passing it to their children. So here is the big question –
Is Alzheimer’s inheritable?
There is no simple answer. Getting Alzheimer’s doesn’t only depend on genetics. Parents pass on genes to their family. Still, the inheritance of genes is complicated. There are two copies of each gene, called alleles. There can be changes in one or both alleles. Genes can get mutated, so they don’t do what they are normally supposed to. There can be a small part or a much larger part of the gene that is mutated. There are many genes that affect one character. Several characters can have a bearing on Alzheimer’s. Mutations in totally unrelated genes can also have effects. It is an interconnected network.
One of the genes affected is called APOE e4 allele. Inheriting this cause a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s. It isn’t certainty, just a greater chance.
Risk factors of other conditions like cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol) also affect Alzheimer’s. Having those might increase the risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
Lifestyle is also a major factor. Diet, exercise, stress, smoking, drinking etc. can all have a huge effect. It is the combination of lifestyle, genetics, age, other medical conditions, environment etc. that ultimately govern getting Alzheimer’s.
Scientists all over the world are researching Alzheimer’s, trying to understand how it develops and how to treat it. Researchers are hoping to find ways to diagnose Alzheimer’s early on, before the symptoms manifest and there is brain damage. Brain imaging can be developed to tailor to identifying Alzheimer’s. the composition of the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid around the brain and spinal cord) of patients can be tested for any difference as compared to unaffected people. There are several other ways being researched.
New drugs are being developed to combat not just the symptoms, like now, albeit to stop the disease from progressing. Trials are being done to gauge if Alzheimer’s can be prevented. Some things like age or genes cannot be altered. However, others can. Scientists are focusing on these.
Diet and exercise can actually help reduce the risk. This keeps the body healthy and all the organs get the nutrients they need to work properly. The brain is healthy so it is less prone to be affected. Also, the other conditions like cholesterol are controlled and so the risk decreases.
Alzheimer’s might not be treatable today. There might be new treatments tomorrow. For now, all we can do is keep ourselves healthy and reduce the risk factors that threaten us.