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Alzheimer's Disease

The Appearance and Development of Alzheimer's Disease

11/16/1999

Question:

My father is 71. He was diagnosed in Aug. 98 and has declined seriuosly since. I am 42. If I was going to inherit the disease when would I first expect to see symptoms? What would they look like? What can I do to preven onset?

Answer:

Because of your family history of Alzheimer`s disease, you are at increased risk of developing the disease. It is important to keep in mind, however, that risk does not equal certainty. Just as a person with high blood pressure is at increased risk for stroke, it does not mean that he/she will ever have a stroke.

Alzheimer`s disease is not a single gene disorder. More than one gene mutation can cause AD and genes on multiple chromosomes are involved. Genes alone are not all powerful. It is highly likely that environmental factors play a role in the development of the disease as well.

If you were to inherit Alzheimer`s disease, it would be impossible to know when you would develop symptoms. The most common form of Alzheimer`s disease occurs after the age of 65.

Symptoms of Alzheimer`s disease include, memory loss, confusion and disorientation. These may manifest themselves in the following ways: difficulty performing familiar tasks, disorientation to time and place, poor or decreased judgement, problems with abstract thinking and changes in personality, to name a few. Any concerns about symptoms should be addressed with your physician.

Unfortunately, at this time, the cause of AD is unknown. Due to the lack of knowledge about a cause, ways of preventing the disease are also unknown. Some research has demonstrated that staying active physically, mentally and socially can be beneficial. Antioxidants, namely, vitamin E has received considerable attention and has been shown to be effective in slowing the progress of Alzheimer`s disease by several months. Studies are currently underway to determine if vitamin E plays a role in preventing Alzheimer`s disease.

Related Resources:

Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
National Alzheimer's Association

For more information:

Go to the Alzheimer's Disease health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Jon Stuckey, PhD
Formerly
Case Western Reserve University