If Dementia Runs in My Family Will I Get It Too?

If Dementia Runs in My Family Will I Get It Too

After his mother died of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, 52-year-old Bud started worrying that he would eventually get the disease too. He had one copy of the APOE4 gene, a gene variant known to increase the risk for Alzheimer’s. That was strike one. Cognitive testing showed that he was already experiencing some memory problems as well as attention issues. Strike two. Bud also had high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, pre-diabetes, untreated sleep apnea, and about 30 pounds too many around his midsection—all of which have been found to contribute to increased risk. Strike three, strike four, strike five… You get the picture.

Bud was so concerned, he made an appointment for a brain scan using SPECT technology. The brain scans showed decreased activity in the frontal and temporal lobes—a clear sign he was headed for serious trouble. Was he doomed to follow in his mother’s path?

Your Genes Can Increase Your Risk for Dementia

Having a family member—especially a first-degree relative like your mother, father, sister, or brother—with severe memory problems, Alzheimer’s disease, or another form of dementia makes you 3.5 times more likely to develop symptoms. Similarly, if you have one or two copies of the APOE4 gene, you have a greater chance of memory problems.

Many people in the medical community contend that there is nothing anyone can do to mitigate genetic risk. They’re wrong. There are many things you can do to reduce your risk even if you have a genetic predisposition for the disease. Just look at Bud.

Your Genes are not Your Destiny

Studies show that our genetics predict only about 20-30% of our longevity. The rest is up to our lifestyle choices. It’s similar for dementia risk. When Bud saw his brain scans and his cognitive testing results, he got serious about his physical health and his brain health. He completely overhauled his diet—dramatically reducing his sugar consumption, increasing his intake of protein and healthy fats, decreasing the number of processed carbohydrates, and adding important nutritional supplements. He also started exercising and began using a CPAP machine to help his sleep apnea.  

Within a year, he dropped 30 pounds and was happy to see blood pressure and blood sugar levels fall into a healthy range. Even better, he said his memory and focus were better than when he was in his 20s. With these lifestyle changes, Bud had lowered his risk for the dreaded disease. You can do it too.

5 Strategies to Reduce Your Risk for Dementia

Go for early screening.

If you have a family member with any form of dementia, get screened around age 40. Getting a brain scan can show early signs of a problem, and cognitive testing can set a baseline for future comparisons.

Get serious about keeping your brain sharp.

Engage in new learning throughout your lifetime. Studies show that learning new things lowers the risk for dementia in people with one or two copies of the ApoE4 gene.

Eat a brain-healthy diet.

To work at optimal levels, your brain needs high-quality nutrition. Don’t overeat as studies show that obesity—and in particular belly fat—increases the risk for Alzheimer’s.

Get moving.

Research shows that exercise can reduce some of the brain changes seen in people with the ApoE4 gene.

Protect your head.

Head injuries can increase the risk for the buildup of abnormal proteins in the brain that is seen in people with Alzheimer’s. Avoid risky sports and practice balance exercises to prevent falls.

If you’re concerned about dementia or if a loved one is showing signs of the disease, don’t hesitate to speak to a specialist. At Amen Clinics, our multi-faceted brain-body approach, which uses the least toxic most effective treatments, has helped thousands of people improve their overall brain health and prevent or reverse memory problems. Find out more by calling 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.


  1. Is there an entity to donate my brain for research after I after I pass on?

    Comment by Nick Hallock — June 5, 2019 @ 2:59 AM

  2. Dr Amon

    Interested in buying your packets on preventing dementia. Tried ordering on your web site, but problem with your site.
    Also would like to be tested for concussion.
    Had an MRI in Greenwich after car accident below, but do not sense they know what they are doing with concussions.

    Yes, dementia runs in my family.

    Plus, I was in a car accident last year (hit from behind while at a stop) which is causing memory and concentration problems for me.


    Comment by Laurence G Allen — June 5, 2019 @ 3:02 AM

  3. My mother’s had dementia and passed because of it.
    I don’t have the means to go to your clinic. What can I do to have the testing done? Thank you

    Comment by Rachel juarez — June 5, 2019 @ 4:29 AM

  4. The work your clinic and staff are doing is light years
    ahead of what anyone in and out of the medical
    world is currently doing.
    I’m grateful to gain more knowledge about my brain and it’s performance through your books and website.
    I love you cook book and blogs.
    Thank you from Toronto, Canada.
    Angela Coon

    Comment by Angela Coon — June 5, 2019 @ 6:06 AM

  5. Father just passed away after taking care of him for the last three years. Mom passed away before him we thought it was just a stroke they said she had vascular dementia. I am almost 65 my blood pressure is normal but I do have some belly fat. I don’t have the means for the testing.

    Comment by Debbie Ashe duel — June 5, 2019 @ 7:11 AM

  6. Is there any advice you can give on brain health. My daughter has chronic migraines for 6 years.
    Are there any tests that can be done to sound the cause? An desperate for her to get her life back.

    Comment by Julia perry — June 12, 2019 @ 1:52 AM

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  14. My mother passed from CJD and my half sister also passed from Dementia. What are my chances ?

    Comment by Cindy Lyster — November 29, 2023 @ 10:13 AM

  15. Hi Cindy, so sorry to hear about your mom and half sister. A SPECT scan can show predispositions to dementia and other genetic variables.

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