When someone in your family has a severe disease or condition, the first thing you will think about is whether it runs in the family. The same thing happens when a loved one has dementia. You will most likely wonder if you are going to go through memory loss and the other issues that follow dementia patients. You will be glad to hear that most forms of dementia are not hereditary. Unfortunately, some of them are. We are here to talk about the hereditary types of dementia, and after hearing the basics, you will know if you should undergo genetic testing.
Understanding Genetic Risk
It doesn’t take much to develop a specific disease. All that it takes is one gene. Inherit one copy of the HTT gene from either of your parents, and you will have Huntington’s disease. If you receive that same gene from both parents, you will definitely pass on this disease to your children.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of gene mutations like Huntington’s and all of them pose a danger for our well-being. Because they are caused by a single gene, they are easy to be found through testing. But not all diseases are like that. Most mutations that pose significant danger come as a combination of different genes and are also affected by our environment.
For example, you know there’s no such gene that carries the name “tall gene,” but our height is affected by genetics anyway. It is the same way with dementia. While it has much to do with genes, there aren’t any precise tests available.
Can You Inherit Dementia?
So even with all this information, we still don’t have an answer to the question, “Can dementia be inherited?” Well, it depends on the type of dementia. In some rare cases, dementia is highly inheritable. Also, if you have a combination of some common genes, the chance of developing dementia is high for you. Luckily, in most cases, dementia is not hereditary.
Despite not being entirely hereditary, people still want to undergo testing. The availability of tests again depends on the type of dementia you have. The available test can only show you the presence or absence of the genes that cause dementia. A single-gene disease like Huntington’s can be easily tracked. With dementia, you can never be sure.
Types of Dementia
Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are the most common types of dementia. Ten percent of cases of Lewy body dementia are hereditary. Having a hereditary case of vascular dementia is even rarer, but cases of having this dementia because of a mutation of the NOTCH3 gene were recorded.
The type of dementia that you have the most significant chances of inheriting is frontotemporal dementia. Almost 50% of recorded cases of this type of dementia can be traced to the genes called MAPT, GRN, and C9orf72. If you have these genes and live to a golden age, you will develop dementia without a doubt. Ten percent of people who have FTD also have it in their family.
If you have a loved one that has dementia, it means that you also are at risk of developing this condition later in life. But despite having a chance, it is not definite that you will develop it. Even if you undergo genetic tests for rare types of dementia, you won’t have a definitive answer. In most cases, testing is not able to give a precise answer and is almost unnecessary.
In the majority of dementia cases, genetics are not the main factor of risk. The primary risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is no other than age. Age, of course, can’t be controlled, but other things that lower the risk of dementia can. If you want to lower your chance of developing this condition, try a healthier diet, quit smoking, and take good care of your overall health.
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