If your parent or grandparent has developed Alzheimer’s, you may be concerned that the condition will be passed down to you, your siblings or your own children. This is a natural thing to worry about, as the progression of Alzheimer’s disease is frightening. Each time you experience a memory lapse, you might think, “Could this be the start of Alzheimer’s?”
For some people, genetic testing makes sense. They feel better knowing their background and personal risk factors. For others, genetic testing would only make them more stressed. Which route is right for you? Let’s explore what genetic testing for Alzheimer’s looks like and if there are benefits.
Which Genes Play a Role in the Onset of Alzheimer’s?
Before getting tested for Alzheimer’s, there is one thing to be aware of: these tests are not black and white. There are many variables, such as the fact that you can come back with the gene and not develop Alzheimer’s. You can also come back without the gene yet still get Alzheimer’s.
Most gene tests look at thousands of genes, but in the case of Alzheimer’s testing, only two categories are analyzed. The first is “risk genes” which are more likely to increase a person’s chances of developing the disease. The APoE genes, specifically, are what may indicate a vulnerability to Alzheimer’s.
The second category is “deterministic genes” which are directly related to developing familial Alzheimer’s disease. Gene variations in the three proteins – amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin-1 (PS-1) and presenilin-2 (PS-2) will result in Alzheimer’s disease. This sounds frightening, but do be aware that this type of Alzheimer’s accounts for less than 5% of cases.
Why Most Doctors Say No to Genetic Testing
In most cases, physicians agree that genetic testing for Alzheimer’s is not necessary. In fact, it can cause unnecessary psychological stress. It’s also important to consider that once you are tested, the results will go onto your medical record and can be discovered by insurance carriers. Again, most medical professionals opt against testing, especially for asymptomatic people.
The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself and lead a healthier lifestyle. You can’t change your genetics, but you can make choices when it comes to diet and exercise. It’s also important to have an engaging social circle, hobbies and activities that you enjoy participating in and healthy outlets for managing stress.
If you are considering being tested for Alzheimer’s, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons. Each situation is unique, and your doctor will know what’s best for you and your family.