Learn more about the common types of dementia and the chances of relatives developing the same disease.
Understanding the Genetics Involved with Dementia
First, it’s important to know the four main types of dementia:
- Vascular Dementia – Only in rare cases will vascular dementia be caused by a genetically-inherited disorder.
- Dementia with Lewy Bodies (LBD) – LBD encompasses two types of diseases: Parkinson’s and Dementia with Lewy Bodies. About 10% of LBD cases are hereditary making it extremely rare to pass on to future generations.
- Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) – FTD is more likely to be inherited than vascular dementia, though inheriting the disease is still considered rare.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – This is the most common form of dementia affecting 50-70% of all dementia patients. The most common risk factor is age as most types of Alzheimer’s are not hereditary.
Second, it’s important to understand the role genes play in hereditary diseases. Genes pass on characteristics such as height, hair color, eye color, or the tendency to inherit certain diseases from chromosomes. Genes can contain mutations or changes – some of which can be beneficial while others are harmful. While a gene associated with a certain disease may be present in a person’s chromosomes, it must change or mutate to cause the disease.
Genes Which May Influence Alzheimer’s
The biggest risk for developing Alzheimer’s is age. In fact, 99% of Alzheimer’s cases are not hereditary.
Less than 1% of Alzheimer’s cases have a rare hereditary type called early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (eFAD). This disease affects 2-3% of the population and can occur in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. If you are diagnosed with eFAD, your siblings or children may have a 50-50 chance of inheriting the disease.
Certain genes can cause eFAD if they experience a specific mutation or change. These genes include:
- Amyloid precursor protein gene APP on chromosome 21 (APP)
- Presenilin 1 on chromosome 14 (PS1)
- Presenilin 2 on chromosome 1 (PS2)
“99% of Alzheimer’s cases are not hereditary.”
What to Do if Early-Onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease Is Suspected
If your family has the gene causing eFAD, predictive testing can tell if you have the mutation which causes the disease. A thorough medical examination is required to know if the gene and mutation exists. If a family member is suspected to have passed away with eFAD, their medical records will need to be examined as well.
Since most cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia are not hereditary, having an elderly family member with the disease does not mean it will automatically be passed on to immediate family members. In the rare event early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s Disease is present, counseling and genetic testing options are available to prepare for a positive diagnosis.
Make Sure You’re Protected
Protect yourself by taking good care of your health and making sure you have a long-term care plan. Long-Term Care insurance (LTCI) helps protect your income, assets, and family members against the threat of a long and difficult long-term care event. If you don’t already have a long-term care plan for your future, make sure to explore your options now.
At LTC Consumer, we understand the financial and emotional challenges people face with a dementia diagnosis. To learn more about how you can protect yourself and your family, get a free LTCI quote and speak with an LTC Specialist to create your long-term care plan today.