Monday, February 13, 2012

Is Alzheimer's Hereditary?

Recently Sally and I went to a workshop on Spirituality and Alzheimer’s sponsored by our local Alzheimer’s Association. Jake and DH stayed at our home. I forgot to leave a schedule on the clipboard at home for where we were and when we would be home. Now between our two ALZ husbands, the answer for where we wives were was not contained in their memory. It wasn’t surprising, then, that both of us, forgetting to turn off our cell phones, got phone calls from our hubbies in the middle of the workshop!

At the workshop one of the speakers, a medical doctor, talked about Apolipoprotein E, better known as ApoE 2, ApoEe and ApoE4 and the hereditary connection for those who have that ApoE4 gene.

I researched and found out that 15% of us have ApoE4 in our blood. Furthermore according to this link on “Why ApoE4 Increases Alzheimer’s Risk”:

People who inherit the E4 gene from one parent are three times more likely than average to develop Alzheimer’s; those who get the gene from both parents have a tenfold risk of developing the disease.
 This information came out in April of 2007 in The Journal of Neuroscience and hence the medical community has known this statistic.

There are two types of Alzheimer’s now that have a genetic component—early-onset and late-onset. I first had the impression that only the first one of them is inherited, but they both do. Let me explain.

Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease strikes people from age 30 to 60 and in most cases this is inherited and known as FAD (familial Alzheimer’s disease). The AD fact sheet punished here states “A child whose mother or father carries a genetic mutation for FAD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting that mutation. If the mutation is in fact inherited, the child almost surely will develop FAD.”

Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease comes after age 60 and over age 85 50% may have dementia. 40 % of people who have that ApoE4 are likely to get Late Onset Alzheimer’s. See link. My husband was 71 when his AD was first diagnosed with 22 out of 30 on his Mini-Mental State Exam; I think it may have been evident when he was 70 but he scored 29 out of 30 at that time. My husband worked for the first six months after this discovery as I reported early in this blog, and is still in stage one of the disease, taking advantage of Exelon and Namenda and coconut oil and everything else I can give him including Ribonucleic Acid, D3 and turmeric.

The causes of Late-Onset are not as predictable and may include a combination of lifestyle, environmental as well as genetic factors. Many countries with different environments and food patterns do not have the epidemic of Alzheimer’s as we have. My husband's parents did not have Alzheimer’s. Researchers with GWAS (genome-wide association study) are discovering other genes that may include a risk for Alzheimer's.

My husband has not only Alzheimer’s but also Vascular Dementia. Heart trouble and diabetes can result in Vascular Dementia, but Vascular Dementia is not inherited. My husband has had a heart attack and also developed type-two diabetes with his heart attack in 2004. Perhaps we can avoid heart disease and late developing diabetes with our lifestyle choices and hence not get Vascular Dementia. This is why I am dieting now and taking measures for my own health. My health will help me continue to be my husband’s caregiver, since no insurance provision can now be purchased for his long-term nursing home care and I will be the one to offer this long-term care.

Epigenetics is a new science. The thought is that certain genes can be switched on or switched off by “environmental factors, such as exercise, diet, chemicals, or smoking, to which an individual may be exposed, even in the womb.” See this Link. One family member may get Alzheimer’s and another may not. My late father had late-developing diabetes and then strokes; his brother, my late uncle, did have both heart trouble and Alzheimer’s. My uncle was probably healthier than his brother, my father, but nonetheless he had some form of dementia at the end.

How does Alzheimer’s spread in the brain? New studies reveal that it is not a virus or bacteria that is spreading Alzheimer's in the brain, but distorted protein know as tau. In an article in The New York Times early this month  the answer came from studies at Columbia and Harvard that “it may be possible to bring Alzheimer’s disease to an abrupt halt early on by preventing cell-to-cell transmission, perhaps with an antibody that blocks tau.”   See article.

What should you do? See if you have that ApoE4 gene and take care of your health so basically you don’t switch on or off an inherited disease. New interventions and treatments are coming down the pike and the government is putting more into research for this disease. Maybe you can get in on research for the National Cell Repository for Alzheimer’s Disease by volunteering your DNA. See or call 1-800-526-2839. Another tip for young people is be sure you get long-term nursing home insurance before you might be diagnosed with AD because once diagnosed you cannot get that insurance. I have that insurance because I was not diagnosed with AD, but we can't get it for my husband.

How can you manage with these uncertainties? Prayer and waiting on the LORD. This life if not all; God is absolutely there for the patient and the caregiver who fear the LORD.

But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. Psalm 33:18-20 NIV Translation


  1. Lots of interesting information here. It's a shame that our western diet is linked to a lot of these conditions. My husband has issues with his eyes. He's got a strong genetic link as most of the adults in his family have some type of eye problem. Right now, he's got a problem with one retina and is being tested for possible glaucoma in the same eye next month. I can't help but wonder if there's also a diet link. He's only 43, but it seems to be his fate to have eye issues.

  2. Interesting. It is lovely to read how you have taken so much interest in your husband's condition and pass that information on. Many folk with Alzheimers and other serious conditions do not have the benefit of a loving carer such as you.

  3. When we had the testing done in Houston at the Baylor Alzheimer's...David was tested positive for APOE4 gene.

    I pray that someday there will be a cure so our children won't have to deal with this awful disease.