Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?

My husband’s grandmother had Alzheimer’s Disease, and my Mother-in-Law has always been concerned about the disease being passed down to her. I asked Dr. Robert Nagele, a researcher for the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, if the disease is hereditary.

He explained that there is a hereditary form of Alzheimer’s Disease that is inherited, but it is a mutation that is passed on from one generation to the next and it only accounts for four percent of the total Alzheimer’s patients. Ninety-six percent are considered to be sporadic. But the disease does run in families. It ran in Dr. Nagaele’s mother’s family. There were six children in her family and of the six, two of them died of Alzheimer’s Disease and the other one had dementia which was leaning toward Alzheimer’s Disease.

Research has demonstrated that people typically suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease for several years before their symptoms are worrisome enough to visit the doctor. There are signs you can look out for if you suspect that a loved one may be suffering. Maybe Mom is starting to be unable to balance her check book, she’s forgetting where she’s placing her keys, or there are unusual behaviors such as her keys showing up in the refrigerator. Eventually it’s alarming enough that it causes you to bring her into the doctor.

Dr. Nagele points out that the disease is ongoing for about five to eight years before a person ever comes to see their doctor for the first time because the brain doesn’t take it lying down, it’s fighting back very hard. The symptoms can arise anywhere in the brain, and different parts of the brain control different functions, which makes it hard initially on the neurologist to say it’s clearly Alzheimer’s. There are tests that can be given to try and discern what’s going on.

Whatever your family history, we all know that exercise is good for our overall health, and now researchers believe that exercise and healthy eating habits will also help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. As parents, you need to get your kids into good habits from birth. Be sure they eat healthy foods and that they spend time playing every day. Physical activity is important, and building that habit in them when they are young is essential.

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