Atlanta Center for Medical Research

Dementia in your DNA?

Atlanta Center for Medical Research Resource Blog

Around 50 million people have dementia worldwide, with about 10 million new cases developing every year. Because of this high statistic, you or someone you know has likely been affected by this disease.

So what does it mean if someone in your family was diagnosed with dementia? Does that put you or your children at a higher risk of developing this disease? If you are curious and want these questions answered, keep reading below to learn about dementia in your DNA.

How Do the Genetics of Dementia Work?

Before explaining how genetics impacts your risk of dementia, it’s important to understand the risk of dementia in those who don’t have a family history. Starting at age 65, most people’s risk for dementia starts at 2%. However, as people continue to age, so does their percentage of risk. For example, people in their 70’s have a 5% chance of having dementia. It will continue to grow as that person continues to age.

However, when family history is involved, the risk percentages change. If a person is age 65 and they have a family risk of dementia, the risk grows from 2% to 2.6%. If a person is in their 70’s and they have a family risk of dementia, the risk changes from 5 to 6.5%. That’s a 30% growth in terms of risk.

Should You Get Tested for Risk of Dementia?

As noted above, the difference in risk isn’t too significant between those who have a family history and those who don’t. Because of this, some medical professionals don’t recommend receiving testing for personal risk of dementia.

Why is this? Genetic testing for dementia looks for a gene called APOE4, which is the hereditary gene of dementia. However, if that gene appears in a person’s results it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will develop dementia. In fact, many people who have that gene don’t develop dementia, and many people who don’t have that gene do develop dementia.

In other words, we don’t currently have a clear way to predict an individual's risk of developing this disease.

Participate in a Study!

If you or someone you love has dementia, consider participating in a research study for Alzheimer’s Disease, the umbrella term for which dementia falls under. Alzheimer’s disease is ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, doctors are pursuing research that could improve methods of treatment. If you or your family member has the disease, participating in the study helps researchers to understand the illness better and also how genetics affects dementia.

The Atlanta Center for Medical Research was founded in 1982 by Dr. Robert A. Riesenberg and is now one of the largest and most respected medical research institutions in the country. If you would like to participate in an Alzheimer’s Disease study or know someone who might click here to volunteer.

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