While Alzheimer’s doesn’t “run” on my side of the family, it’s been prevalent in my husband’s family, which concerns me as I raise my children. When I was invited by the ladies of The Motherhood to participate in a webinar to learn more about the devastating Alzheimer’s disease, I accepted without hesitation.
Did you know…
- Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and is not a normal part of aging
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. And the only one of the top 10 causes of death that cannot currently be prevented, treated or cured
- 5.4 million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s, and someone is diagnosed every 6.9 seconds
That last statistic wowed me. I had no idea that the number of people affected by Alzheimer’s was so incredibly large. It amazes me that there’s no prevention, treatment or cure with the numbers being so very big. One thing that’s true, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone affected by Alzheimer’s. When I was invited to participate in the call, I discussed with my husband some of the questions we have when raising our family, to try to help us have a better understanding of how Alzheimer’s may affect all of us.
After the presentation, I followed up with Jessica Langbaum, PhD, principal scientist at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative with a few questions that were hot on my family’s mind.
Family history, genetics and Alzheimer’s
Genetically, is maternal or paternal family history more common in cases of hereditary diagnosis? (ie, if your paternal family has more cases of Alzheimer’s, is it more likely than it being in your maternal side that you will develop Alzheimer’s, or does this not play into likelihood?)
A few research groups have reported that a person’s risk may be increased if their mother had Alzheimer’s as opposed to their father. This finding hasn’t been replicated by other research groups. The group that has reported that maternal history is associated with increased risk suggests that it is due to mitochondrial DNA (which is only maternally inherited, not paternally). Frankly, I think the jury is still out the maternal/paternal issue and may be a small or spurious finding.
Childhood behavior and Alzheimer’s Disease
Have any studies looked to see if there is a correlation between health and personality in young children and the development of Alzheimer’s later in life?
There have been a handful of studies that have looked at this – and really the whole field of epigenetics is exploding (see New York Times article, Why Fathers Really Matter). Epigenetics is the study of how the environment shapes our genes. Note that what I am sharing is for dementia in general, most of this type of research didn’t specifically look at Alzheimer’s. There is a study that looked at children who experienced a crisis (like parental death) and their risk of dementia was greater in later life. Socioeconomic status in childhood has been associated with brain size in later life. Less educational attainment in childhood is associated with increased risk of dementia. Some groups are now looking at databases that were started in the 1920s, 30s and 40s to see if there is a relationship between childhood nutrition and dementia. I have not found reputable studies of the relationship between childhood personality and Alzheimer’s.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease
I’d love information on whether once early-onset Alzheimer’s begins to “set in”, there are ways to combat Alzheimers… to slow it down a bit?
Early-onset Alzheimer’s has in many ways a similar clinical course to the more common late-onset Alzheimer’s. As in any case of Alzheimer’s, right now there isn’t much in the way of a drug treatment that a person can take to slow down the disease. The currently FDA approved treatments are so-called symptomatic treatments and include therapies such as Aricept, Exelon, Namenda, etc. These therapies may help slow the course for a few months to a year, though certainly in some cases they may be effective for shorter or longer periods of time.
The Banner Alzheimer’s Institute Introduces the Prevention Registry
The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative is an international collaboration created to find effective ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease as quickly as possible, led by a partnership with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. By joining the registry, enrollees will
- be kept informed of latest news and advocacy to drive focus on Alzheimer’s
- help to provide an unprecedented resource of potential study participants for prevention research
- be offered valuable resources of simple, easy to understand news in partnership with AlzForum
The only requirement to sign up for the registry is to be 18 or older. By signing up, you will have access to information and resources about what’s being done to fight this disease and you may be invited to participate in a research study (which will always be optional.)
I want to learn more because I know Alzheimer’s Disease has already affected our family and will, sadly, continue to do so. I signed up for the registry. Will you?
This post was sponsored by the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute Initiative and The Motherhood as was the webinar. Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net
© 2012, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.