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Having a parent with dementia may affect midlife memory

Consumer Reports News: April 30, 2009 06:27 PM

If your parents have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (AD), you may be more likely to have memory loss yourself in middle years, according to a Boston University study presented this week at the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st annual meeting in Seattle.

In this report, three generations of participants in the Framingham Heart Study were followed by researchers to study risk factors of Alzheimer’s and other diseases. Scientists tested 715 people belonging to the second generation with an average age of 59. One group of 282 had one or both parents who had dementia; the other group of 433 people had parents without dementia.

Among people who had the risk factor (ApoE gene), those who had parents with AD or other dementia had two to three times the chance of having low verbal and visual memory performance than those with unaffected parents.  Author Stephanie Debette, M.D., Ph.D., likened the effect to 15 years of brain aging. It is notable that despite their poorer performance on the tests, all the individuals functioned normally.

Watch the video of our medical adviser, Orly Avitzur, reporting from the meeting in Seattle. She spoke to Dr. Debette about the findings in this study and asked her to describe her plans for further research in this area.

Read our article to determine if symptoms are suggestive of AD or just part of normal aging.


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