Is Alzheimer’s Disease Genetic? (It’s Complicated)

A blue strand of DNA that has a single section highlighted in yellow. Meant to represent the concept of genetics influencing Alzheimer's disease.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 6.7 million Americans live with Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia. Alzheimer's is characterized by symptoms like wandering and disorientation in the early stages before progressing to more severe symptoms like an inability to communicate, difficulty swallowing, and seizures. Given the toll this condition takes on families and the US healthcare system, it's no surprise that plenty of research focuses on ways to prevent Alzheimer's, what causes it, and more. Crucially, many hope to answer the question: Is Alzheimer's disease genetic?

The answer, unfortunately, is complicated

Genetic Risk of Alzheimer's Disease

Like many other conditions, family history plays a role in risk for Alzheimer's. Specifically, Alzheimer's disease risk increases if close family members have the condition. And, thanks to decades of research, we know more about this condition than ever before—including just what heritable traits put someone at risk.

Many of the symptoms of this condition are caused by amyloid plaque buildup and tau tangles (types of proteins) in the brain. According to recent research, different heritable high-risk genes and rare genetic variants (mutations) of them could make someone more likely to develop these hallmark plaques and tangles in the brain, including:

While these genes might sound scary at first, it's important to note that presence of these genes/genetic variants does not necessarily mean that someone will develop dementia.

Non-Genetic Risk for Alzheimer's Disease

More than just genes can lead to increased risk of Alzheimer's disease; lifestyle and environmental factors also play a critical role in its development.

Other factors that can lead to a higher risk of developing dementia include:

Preventing and Slowing Down Alzheimer's—What You Can Do

While we cannot control our genetics and family history, we can control many of the risk factors for developing Alzheimer's. Even better, even if someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, there are several methods to mitigate its effects, including:

Memory Care at St. Andrew's

A loved one receiving a dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming, but it doesn't have to mean that there is no hope. Receiving the right type of care early on can mean enjoying several more months or even years with your loved one. At St. Andrew's, our memory care team—composed of compassionate professional caregivers, chefs, housekeepers, and more—works with each family to develop the right care plan for each individual who comes through our doors.

Contact us to learn more about how we can care for your loved one experiencing memory loss and cognitive decline.

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