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Dementia is devastating both for you and your family members. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, you may be concerned with it being passed on to children. While the relationship between genetics and dementia is not clear cut, we have made considerable strides in understanding causes and prevention of dementia. Use this guide to understand how genetics affects your chances of inheriting or passing on dementia.

Is Dementia Hereditary: A Brief Guide

Genes contain the basic instructions to build and maintain our bodies. Differences in genes are known as variants and mutations. Variants are common and harmless. They could be thought of as different versions of the same gene. Many variants work together along with other factors to determine most of your individual qualities. Mutations, on the other hand, are faulty genes and are rare. Their effect is typically greater and can be harmful. Whereas most of your characteristics are a combination of several variants and other factors, sometimes a characteristic can be traced back to a mutation in a single gene.

Causes of Dementia

Inheriting dementia directly through a single gene mutation is rare. However, your chances of developing it are affected by the different genetic variants you have in addition to other factors. Your lifestyle choices regarding smoking, exercise, and diet play a big role in your chances of developing any disease, regardless of genetic disposition. The role of genes also seems to vary across different types of dementia.

Alzheimer’s Disease

There are two types of Alzheimer’s disease. One is known as early onset dementia. It typically happens to people in their 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. This type of Alzheimer’s is very rare and few cases are caused by direct genetic mutation. Most cases of Alzheimer’s happen after age 65 and are affected by a complex inheritance pattern. Over 20 gene variants have been identified that affect your chances of developing Alzheimer’s at varying degrees. While the disease is not caused directly by these variants, it is strongly influenced by lifestyle choices and other factors as well. Sometimes it skips generations and sometimes it disappears altogether.

Other Common Forms of Dementia

The second most common type of dementia is known as vascular dementia. The most common forms of vascular dementia are associated with no known single-gene mutations. Instead, lifestyle choices seem to play a larger role while genetic variants play a smaller role in the development of this disease. Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a third form of dementia with which genes seem to play the largest role. FTD is known to run in families across generations and sometimes as the result of single-gene mutations. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with any form of dementia and need assisted living services, make sure the facility also offers memory care.

Choose Health

Is dementia hereditary? While there are rare occurrences of dementia being caused by direct genetic mutation, most of the time lifestyle choices play a bigger role than genetics. Choose a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and choose to refrain from smoking. Prevent dementia and many other diseases and illnesses by choosing health. Contact Us for resources and more information on dementia, assisted living, and memory care services.

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