Your Dementia Risk May Increase if Your Mother Has Alzheimer’s

A new study suggests that whether and when your parents develop Alzheimer’s disease can impact your own brain health later in life.

Researchers examined data from more than 4,400 adults without any history of cognitive impairment, including questionnaires about family dementia history and brain scans. When an individual’s mother, or both parents, had Alzheimer’s disease, the person had significantly higher levels of so-called amyloid plaque deposits in their brain that can hasten cognitive decline, compared with participants who had only a father with Alzheimer’s, according to study results published in JAMA Neurology.

Amyloid plaques are clumps of misfolded protein in the brain that have long been associated with cognitive impairment.

“Our results show that genetic risk captured by family history of dementia affected amyloid-beta protein accumulation even in asymptomatic older adults,” says the senior study author, Hyun-Sik Yang, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“Interestingly, this association was stronger with maternal history,” Dr. Yang says.

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