Heredity

Dr Cesar Rodriguez talks about worries you may have about inheriting dementia.

Of course families wonder if dementia is inherited. The position is complicated. Families who have a record of living to a great age include lots of relatives who lived long enough to get dementia.

Well the doctor says I’m getting the dementia now and I am celebrating; I’m 96 you know and I did not die in an accident or from cancer or in the War, and I’ve still most of my teeth (enough anyway) and something has to get you in the end. It’s OK. All my brothers and sisters lived to be over ninety and I was the youngest. It’s just my time. Two of them had it, but not bad. (Retired school teacher)

Recent studies have started looking at what we now call the “Fourth Age”. This term is used to classify people over the age of 85. They are extreme survivors. It is as if those of us under that age are still being “weeded out” and if you make it to 85 you may be around for much longer and are probably really tough in a way that is worth studying. If you are unfortunate enough to be in a family where someone got Alzheimer’s disease before they were sixty years old, then your family is possibly affected by a dementia that has more genetic factors than other dementias. One contribution to the lack of knowledge about hereditary factors in the past was the stigma that used to surround any mental health problem. Someone with “early onset” or “working age” dementia these days will sometimes reveal that one of their parents did die young, but no one ever talked to them about the cause of death, and it was swept under the carpet so they didn’t know much about it as children, and now no one is alive who knew. Many people in these families will never develop dementia, though, and you may wish to ask your GP for genetic counselling if worry about this is affecting your life. (From Dementia The One Stop Guide)

Reviewed March 1, 2019

0.49