How parent's age at the onset of Alzheimer's can influence disease development

New research has found that the age at which a parent first exhibited signs of Alzheimer's can also affect an individual's risk of developing the disease. ― AFP pic
New research has found that the age at which a parent first exhibited signs of Alzheimer's can also affect an individual's risk of developing the disease. ― AFP pic

TORONTO, Feb 28 ― New Canadian research has shed some light on how a family history of Alzheimer's disease may affect an individual's risk of developing the condition. It found that the closer a person gets to the age at which their parent exhibited the first signs of Alzheimer's, the more likely they are to have a build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain, thought to be a main cause of the disease.

Carried out by researchers from McGill University, the study looked at 101 cognitively normal individuals whose parents had a history of Alzheimer's disease.

The team set out to assess if the difference between a person's age and the age of their parent when they first showed signs of the disease is a more important risk factor than the individual's actual age.

After looking at samples of the cerebrospinal fluid of the participants, which were taken during a lumbar puncture, researchers found that genetics had a much greater impact on the risk of Alzheimer's disease than previously thought, with the number of amyloid plaques in the brain increasing as individuals approached their parent's age at symptom onset.

“A 60-year-old whose mother developed Alzheimer's at age 63 would be more likely to have amyloid plaques in their brain than a 70-year-old whose mother developed the disease at age 85,” explains researcher Sylvia Villeneuve.

Villeneuve also added that, “upon examining changes in the amyloid biomarker in the cerebrospinal fluid samples from our subjects, we noticed that this link between parental age and amyloid deposits is stronger in women than in men. The link is also stronger in carriers of the ApoE4 gene, the so-called 'Alzheimer's gene.'“

Although the participant size in the current study is small, Villeneuve and her team have successfully reproduced their results in two other independent groups, one consisting of 128 individuals and another group consisting of 135 individuals.

The results have also been reproduced using an imaging technique that enables one to see amyloid plaques directly in the brains of living persons.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 564,000 Canadians currently have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia, a figure which is set to rise to 937,000 within 15 years.

Although there is currently no cure or effective treatment, many recent studies have identified potential risk factors for the condition, with the findings suggesting that getting enough sleep, regular exercise, reducing alcohol consumption, and having a positive attitude towards aging could all be important in helping to stave off Alzhheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

The results can be found published online in JAMA Neurology. ― AFP-Relaxnews

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