Q: My mother has Alzheimer’s. Does this mean that I will develop it?
A: No one knows yet exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, but learning more about the disease is important. Researchers are learning about what happens to the brain as we grow older, what happens to brain cells in Alzheimer’s, what genes are associated with Alzheimer’s, and many other factors that may be important. Most researchers agree that the cause may be a complex set of factors.
Age and family history have been identified as potential risk factors. Studies have shown that the greatest known risk for developing Alzheimer’s is increasing age. As many as 8 percent of all people 65 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s. As many as 42 percent of all people 85 and older have Alzheimer’s.
A small percentage of people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s get Alzheimer’s. This young onset form of Alzheimer’s accounts for less than 10 percent of all reported cases and is relatively rare.
Scientists believe this variation of the disease may be genetically transmitted across multiple generations of the same family and accounts for less than 5 percent of cases. Researchers have identified three genes that cause Young Onset Alzheimer’s and they have identified one gene that raises the risk of the more common form of Alzheimer’s that affects older people. This “susceptibility” gene does not 100 percent predict whether one will develop Alzheimer’s. There is still a lot to learn about the genetic component of Alzheimer’s.
Much dementia research has focused on vascular risk factors, which are factors related to the blood circulation system. A great deal of evidence shows that disorders such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure - factors that cause strokes and heart disease - may also increase the risk for developing Alzheimer’s.
The New York City Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association offers educational meetings addressing topics such as understanding dementia, legal and financial matters, and residential care facilities.
For help with this or any other dementia situation or for a list of our services visit our website at www.alznyc.org or call our 24-hour helpline: 1-800-272-3900. There is always a caring and informed person at the other end of the line to help you.
- The Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter
If you have a question for the Alzheimer’s Association, New York City Chapter, please send it to Jed Levine at firstname.lastname@example.org