Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 Wendy, Community Member, asks

Q: Is Alzheimer's hereditary?

My older sister has been diagnosed with Alzheimer, and I want to know if it is hereditary.  She is 67 years old.  There has been no other history in the family.



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Answers (4)
Christine Kennard, Health Pro
1/12/10 10:27am

Hi Wendy


Yes there is a genetic component to Alzheimer's. Having a close relative does increase your chances of getting the disease but it does not mean you will get it. Our knowledge of DNA and hereditary factors in disease is increasing all the time.


Here is a link to more information about genetics and Alzheimer's disease. Please get back to us with any questions you have.



NC, Community Member
1/12/10 11:55am

There is maybe just a little chance with low percentage (3% or 4%) but I would not worry about it. So many people have AD and not all the families are worried about this unless everyone in your family got this. I know this early onset AD is very bad and I heard that one or two families have most siblings dying from early onset AD in 5 years. That kind of family needs to do genetic testing and etc.

In general, if it is just my father-in-law (he is 89) who has AD, I would not worry too much for my husband. Sometimes one gets AD for many reasons.


Take care,


AFA Social Services, Health Guide
1/12/10 4:52pm

Wondering about the future of your health is a natural reaction after your sister’s diagnosis.  The general thinking about Alzheimer’s disease is that there are two distinct categories of the illness.  The first category is often called either “sporadic” Alzheimer’s or “late-onset” Alzheimer’s.  This type affects people in older adulthood, usually after the age of 65 and accounts for nearly 95% of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease.  Only about 20% of families with a history of sporadic Alzheimer’s disease are at greater risk for developing the illness in future generations. 
The second type of Alzheimer’s disease is often called “familial” Alzheimer’s or “early-onset” Alzheimer’s, and this version affects people who are usually younger than 65 or even as young as the late-thirties.  This version of the illness accounts for only about 5% of the cases of Alzheimer’s, and is therefore very rare.  This type has a strong history in families, and the odds of future generations developing the illness are significantly higher than the odds for someone without such a family history. 
If you have concerns about your own health or begin noticing symptoms or problems in the ways you are thinking, you should speak to a healthcare professional about your concerns; the professional might recommend a comprehensive medical exam. In addition, whether or not you want to undergo genetic testing is a very personal decision.  In the meantime, it is important for you to know you can change your environment and lifestyle in order to reduce your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.  Even if your genes put you at risk for the illness, you can still work on the complete health of your body and brain through several specific areas of lifestyle change.  There is an array of wonderful information on the topics of Alzheimer’s disease and brain health on the Web site of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Dorian Martin, Health Guide
1/14/10 10:44am

Hi, Wendy,


You also may want to watch the HBO series, The Alzheimer's Project, which has a wealth of information. Some of the documentary and the supplemental series provides information on Alzheimer's and heredity. You can watch it online for free .


Take care and keep us posted!



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By Wendy, Community Member— Last Modified: 10/26/11, First Published: 01/12/10