Alzheimer's Runs in My Family - What Can I Do?
My father had Alzheimer's, as did three of his four siblings and many of his eleven aunts and uncles. His own father died of injuries from a car wreck or we suspect he also would have suffered Alzheimer's. As you can guess, my cousins and I are concerned about what may lie ahead. Are we likely to get Alzheimer's? Is Alzheimer's inherited? What can we do?
Alzheimer's disease does run in some families, but it is not necessarily an inherited disease.
You could have dozens of relatives with Alzheimer's and never get it (like your dad's fourth sibling), or you could have no relatives with Alzheimer's and get it.
Whether or not Alzheimer's is in your family, the statistics are still sobering: if we live long enough, 40 percent of us will suffer Alzheimer's or dementia—affecting millions of loved ones.
Here are some things you can consider doing to help:
- Follow developments about Alzheimer's, paying special attention to findings around prevention, especially exercise and diet. Signing up for the Alzheimer's Association e-newsletter is an easy way to stay abreast of advances in Alzheimer's treatments, care and research. This can be important since evidence suggests that individuals who exercise may get Alzheimer's disease later in life than those who do not. Social engagement and a heart friendly diet may also help lower your risk.
- Enroll close living relatives with Alzheimer's or dementia in a University-based memory disorder clinic, where they can participate in clinical studies or trials and get very up-to-date care. You can find a helpful fact sheet on clinical studies and trials from the National Institute on Aging, as well as a database of clinical trials.
- Advocate for more research dollars by writing your members of congress and supporting the local Alzheimer's Association. The research community may be our best hope.
Finally, I would try not to worry too much. Ultimately each of us lives one day at a time. Instead of stressing about a future you cannot predict or control, stay active, socially engaged, and enjoy your life! Hopefully Alzheimer's will not be in your future, and if it is research advances may end up giving you and your family some good news.