Which would you rather have during old age: a sharp mind or good physical health? The assumption behind this conundrum may be missing the point— that with healthy lifestyle choices, you can have both.
More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and one-third of American seniors die with the disease or another form of dementia. For those elders and the people who love them, the forgetfulness and slow descent into complete dependency can not only be costly and heartbreaking, but frightening, particularly when relatives are concerned about inheriting the disease themselves.
The genetic factor
There’s a lot that scientists still don’t know about Alzheimer’s, and that includes how much of a person’s risk depends on genetics.
When diagnosing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which the National Institute on Aging estimates affects less than 5 percent of all Alzheimer’s patients, doctors have observed a genetic link. Early-onset, which occurs in people ages 30 to 60, is due to one of several genetic mutations. If one of your parents carries the mutation for the disease, you have a 50 percent chance of inheriting it. If inherited, it’s likely that you’ll develop early-onset Alzheimer’s.