Is Dementia Genetic?

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 28th of July 2017.


Many families who have been touched by dementia, understandably, worry that developing dementia is passed through the family’s DNA, and so their chance of being diagnosed with the disease is higher than a family that have not encountered dementia. Due to the rapid rise in dementia cases over the last few years, there is a huge amount of ongoing research exploring the reasons behind an individual developing dementia, and this includes studying how genetics can play a part in developing the disease.


It is generally believed that the majority of dementia cases are not hereditary. However, there are certain types of dementia that are believed to be carried in genes, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Though it is important to note that in roughly 99% of people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there is no hereditary connection. However, for 1% of cases, there are three genes, APP, PS1 and PS2, that have been identified as causing early onset Alzheimer’s.

In fact, in 2008, DIAN (Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network) was set up, internationally, to research familial Alzheimer’s disease and try to understand how and why the disease is inherited, and study any early features that may indicate the development of the condition.

Similarly, in frontotemporal dementia (a broad term for various rare types of dementia that affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain —generally associated with personality, behaviour and language) 30 – 50% of these cases are linked to inheritance but is only thought to account for up to 10 to 15 percent of all dementia cases.

Rare types of dementia, such as Huntington’s Disease (found in 12 people per 100,000) are more clearly noted as being hereditary. This is due to the fact that one specific ‘faulty’ copy of the gene needs to be present in order for the disease to develop.


So, dementia can be genetic, but cases are rare, and as research continues, we will begin to learn even more about the causes and development of the disease. And whilst a dementia diagnosis cannot be wholly prevented, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce your chances of developing dementia, such as diet and exercise.