Dementia is a cognitive condition that affects over 50 million people worldwide! A cognitive condition is one which affects the brain. The damage dementia causes to the brain results in the recognisable outward symptoms of memory-loss, confusion, impaired judgement and behavioural changes. Science has come a long way towards understanding dementia and today many treatments are available which can help to ease the outward symptoms experienced by patients. That said, there is not yet a treatment for Dementia and that is, at least partly, because we still do not know for certain exactly what causes Dementia. Many people who have known family members and loved-ones with Dementia fear that they may inherit the condition genetically.
The reality, however, is that there is no reason to panic in most cases. Dementia is not often inherited genetically. There are some instances where this is the case but it depends largely on the type of dementia.
Types and Causes of Dementia
The most common type of Dementia - Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), is perhaps the most feared of all types of Dementia, but even this is extremely unlikely to be inherited. Whilst there are cases of AD being evident in family lines, statistics suggest that in 99% of cases, the condition is not inherited. These figures are slightly more significant for both Frontotemporal Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia, however neither of these are considered ‘genetic conditions’, rather there is simply an increased risk of developing the conditions if family members in previous generations have been affected.
Meanwhile, Vascular Dementia is most-often caused by other conditions related to the heart such as stroke and high blood-pressure. This makes Vascular Dementia far more likely to be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle rather than genetics. Similarly, TBI Dementias are typically caused by as a result of sudden injuries, meaning they are also not inherited conditions.
Reducing Your Risk
Understanding that dementia is, in the majority of cases, not a genetically inherited condition actually enables us to be far more positive about our own outlook for the future. Scientists believe that dementia is, instead, related in part to lifestyle factors. This means that by adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can actually reduce our future risk of dementia. The groundbreaking ‘FINGER’ study into the links between lifestyle and dementia found that a healthy lifestyle comprising of four key elements could significantly reduce a person’s likelihood of developing dementia. The four key elements are: A healthy diet, regular exercise, brain training and frequent social interaction. Knowing that we can all do take steps to reduce our own risk of dementia allows us to be far more optimistic about ageing than if dementia were simply an inherited condition that was unavoidable if it ran in our family.
For more help building a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of dementia, check out the MindMate app to find all the tools you to live a healthy style!