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A new study has revealed, on average people with dementia whose, parents also had dementia develop symptoms six years earlier than their parents.
Factors such as education, blood pressure and carrying the genetic variant APOE4 increases the risk of dementia, accounting for less than a third of the variation in the age at onset.
Gregory Day, MD, an assistant professor of neurology and an investigator at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) said, “It’s important to know who is going to get dementia, but it’s also important to know when symptoms will develop.”
People with dementia were studied by researchers, 164 people were identified with dementia who had at least one parent who had been diagnosed with dementia.
The ages at onset of dementia for each participant and their parent were determined by researchers, using medical records and interviews with participants and knowledgeable friends or family members.
A large set of known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease was analyzed. They studied heritable factors such as ethnicity, race, genetic variants and which parent had the disease.
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On average, people who had one parent with dementia developed symptoms 6.1 years earlier than the parent had. Considering both parents having dementia, the age at onset was 13 years earlier than the average of the parents’ ages at diagnosis.
Over the past few decades changes in diagnostic criteria and social attitudes toward a cognitive decline explain why people are diagnosed at younger ages than their parents.
Other factors were also involved, Factors such as education, body mass index, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, blood pressure, blood cholesterol level, depression, tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and histories of traumatic brain injury were looked by researchers.
Day added, “What’s most interesting, I think, is that people with two parents with dementia developed the disease much younger than people with one parent. That suggests that it’s more than just changes in diagnostic criteria or social attitudes. People with two parents with dementia may have a double dose of genetic or other risk factors that pushes them toward a younger age at onset.”
All identified factors together only accounted for 29 percent of the variability. Where, what influences the age of dementia onset remains to be identified.
Interesting was researchers also found that people who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at younger or older ages than their parents were more likely to have certain mutations in Alzheimer’s genes than people diagnosed at the expected age.
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