If you have a parent who has developed Alzheimer’s or dementia, one of the first questions you may ask yourself is “Is dementia hereditary?”
The answer is yes…and no.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia describes the symptoms from a broad spectrum of diseases that range from Alzheimer’s to Huntington’s disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life…Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms.”
Dementia is a symptom of these diseases:
– Alzheimer’s disease comprises an estimated 60 to 80% of cases of dementia. Its symptoms include difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events; apathy and depression; followed by impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.
– Vascular dementia accounts for about 10% of cases and is usually caused by stroke.
– Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) resembles Alzheimer’s, but it’s more likely to include sleep disturbances, visual hallucinations, slowness, and gait imbalance as early symptoms.
– Mixed dementia results when an individual experiences dementia from two or more causes.
– Parkinson’s disease can result in dementia that focuses on problems with movement.
– Frontotemporal dementia can result from disease or accident.
– Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is the human variant of Mad Cow Disease.
– Normal pressure hydrocephalus is caused by a buildup of fluid in the brain.
– Huntington’s disease is caused by a single defective gene on chromosome 4.
– Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is caused by severe deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B-1), usually resulting from alcohol abuse.
Is Dementia Hereditary?
“(G)enes are thought to play some role in almost all cases of dementia. This is because the different genetic variants we all have affect our chance of developing the condition to some degree. Our genetic variants also play a role in determining how healthy we are in other ways, such as our cardiovascular health. This means that they indirectly raise or lower our chances of developing dementia,” notes the Alzheimer’s Association.
Can I Prevent Dementia?
In most cases, except for Huntington’s disease, you can reduce your risk of developing dementia by:
– eating a low-fat high-fiber diet with fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains and limiting salt
– maintaining a healthy weight to lower the chances of dementia brought on by high blood pressure
– exercising regularly to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient
– abstaining from drinking too much alcohol will prevent high blood pressure and cholesterol levels
– stopping smoking will prevent your arteries from narrowing, resulting in high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease
– keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level
Is Your Parent with Dementia Living Alone?
Living alone can be especially challenging for a senior with dementia. People with dementia may wander and become angry and irritable as symptoms worsen. Make plans to ensure your loved one stays safe.
To learn more about helping your aging loved one with dementia, visit our care page.
Need help with assisted living for your loved one with Alzheimer’s? Contact Sugar Hill Retirement Community and let us help you through the process of finding a living arrangement your parent will love.