Family History of Alzheimer’s Risk Impact More Than Initially Thought

It is well-established that family history influences Alzheimer’s risk. However, according to a new study, we may have underestimated the role that family history plays.

If you had a parent that was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, think about the year when their symptoms first began to surface. As stated by researchers, that year is important.

The closer you currently are to that age, the likelier it is you will begin to show degenerative symptoms.

Family History May Provide Important Clues About Alzheimer’s Risk


Researchers from McGill University recently studied the link between Alzheimer’s risk and family history. They found that amyloid plaques were more prevalent in the brain when individuals began to approach the same age that their mother or father first developed symptoms. In total, the researchers studied 101 subjects.

They stated that closeness to the parent’s age when they first experienced the warning signs of Alzheimer’s is a potentially greater risk factor than age itself. This means that if your mother developed Alzheimer’s at the age of 65, you would be more prone to developing plaques at age 67 than a 73-year-old whose father did not develop the disease until age 82.

In addition, the researchers found that this genetic impact was more prevalent in women. This link is also stronger among carriers of the ApoE4 gene — also known as the “Alzheimer’s gene.”

It was concluded that although there is no cure for this disease, early detection, and key lifestyle changes may slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s.

The study, Proximity to Parental Symptom Onset and Amyloid-β Burden in Sporadic Alzheimer Disease was published in JAMA Neurology.

These Results Were Duplicated in Two Independent Groups

After this study was complete, the researchers duplicated their findings in two independent groups. The first included 128 participants and the second consisted of 135 participants. They also reproduced their findings using an imaging technique that allowed them to observe amyloid plaques in the brains of these participants.

Their research plans to pave the way for the development of reliable, inexpensive methods that help identify individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s — and in a timely manner. Early intervention is key, which is why this type of research is so critical.

You Are Not Completely Powerless

Millions of baby boomers have already witnessed their parent’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. This has left many wondering if they will experience the same fate.

If you can relate, it is important to know that although you are at greater risk, you will not automatically go through the same experiences as your parent. We know that Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, so there are a number of variables at play. However, you can actively intervene, focusing on risk factors that are in your control.

Some of these risk factors include:

  • Education

  • Exercise

  • Managing symptoms of diabetes and hypertension

  • Addressing obesity

  • Smoking

  • Depression

  • Nutrition

  • Social isolation

To read more about these risk factors, please refer to the following article: Powerful Risk Factors That May Prevent One-Third of Dementia Cases.

It is also recommended that individuals with a family history of Alzheimer’s seek annual testing. Not only will this help you become aware of any possible changes, but this is a great strategy to keep your worries at bay.

If you would like to try the BrainTest 30-day free trial, you can do so here. This scientifically-validated app can help you better understand potential early warning signs of dementia. You can then discuss your results with a physician.

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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