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Alzheimer’s risk linked to health of extended family

The Herald


DEMENTIA may run in the wider family, suggests a new study.

Researchers found that having great-grandparents or cousins with Alzheimer’s disease is linked to a higher risk of developing the degenerative illness.

They say that an extended family history may give bigger clues to a person’s chances of being struck down.

Having a parent with Alzheimer’s has been known to raise a person’s risk of developing the disease.

But the new study, published in the online issue of the journal Neurology, suggests that having second- and third-degree relatives who have had Alzheimer’s may also increase the risk.

First-degree relatives include siblings who share both parents. Second-degree relatives include grandparents, blood-related aunts and uncles, and siblings who share one parent. Third-degree relatives include great-grandparents, great uncles, great aunts and first cousins.

Study author Professor Lisa Cannon-Albright, of the University of Utah School of Medicine in the US, said: “Family history is an important indicator of risk for Alzheimer’s disease, but most research focuses on dementia in immediate family members, so our study sought to look at the bigger family picture. We found that having a broader view of family history may help better predict risk. These results potentially could lead to better diagnoses and help patients and their families in making health-related decisions.”

For the study, researchers looked at the Utah Population Database, which includes the genealogy of Utah pioneers from the 1800s and their descendants up until the present day.

The database is linked to Utah death certificates, which show causes of death and, in a majority of cases, contributing causes of death.

In that database, researchers analysed data from more than 270,000 people who had at least three generations of genealogy connected to the original Utah pioneers, including genealogy data for both parents, all four grandparents and at least six of eight great-grandparents.

Of those, 4,436 have a death certificate that indicates Alzheimer’s disease as a cause of death.

Researchers found that people with one first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s had a 73 per cent increased risk of developing it.

People with two first-degree relatives with it were four times more likely to develop the disease; those with three were two-and-half more times likely and those with four were nearly 15 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

CREDIT: "SWNS - London" <[email protected]>

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