Extended Family History of Alzheimer’s May Increase Your Risk

Read Time: 3:32
Published: May 28th, 2021
Family History of Alzheimer’s May Raise Risk

If you have a family member who has Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia, you might be wondering if you have a higher risk of having dementia yourself. 

More people in the United States and around the world now have dementia than ever before. Most experts suggest that longevity is the primary driver for the higher rates of Alzheimer's and dementia. 

When you have dementia, it is a crisis for you and the family. Your family and finances will be affected, especially if you had no plan in place to address the high costs and related family burdens that come with memory loss.

Family History Increases DementiaRisk

Family history research shows that if you have a first-degree relative diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, your risk of developing it increases by 30%. A first-degree relative includes parents and siblings. 

If you have multiple first-degree relatives with Alzheimer's, the risk of you developing Alzheimer's in your life increases. 

Sometimes it may skip a generation, so understanding your grandparent's health history can be helpful. However, keep in mind that longevity was less in previous generations, so family members may not have lived long enough to develop the disease. 

Any disease, including Alzheimer's and other dementias, that runs in families will be due to genetics (hereditary factors), environmental factors, or both. However, Alzheimer's Association says family history is not necessary for an individual to develop Alzheimer's.

Extended Family History Also Increases Alzheimer’s Risk

Recent research shows that looking at family history from an expanded view may give us a better view of potential risk.

Lisa Cannon-Albright, Ph.D., professor and Program Leader of Genetic Epidemiology at the University of Utah Health, said the research team was surprised to learn that even third-degree relatives affected the risk.

Second-degree relatives refer to grandparents/grandchildren, blood-related aunts and uncles and nieces, and nephews, as well as siblings who share one parent. Third-degree relatives include first cousins, great-grandparents/great-grandchildren, great uncles, great aunts, great-nieces, and great-nephews.

Lisa Cannon-Albright, Ph.D.

"We were able to find that the risk for developing Alzheimer's was significantly increased for each additional relative affected by the disease," Cannon-Albright said.

"It's interesting to think about the fact that shared genes are enough to show that your risk is affected." 

The research results show the risk of an individual with one first-degree relative and one second-degree relative diagnosed with Alzheimer's is 21 times greater than the population rate for developing the disease. 

In addition, an individual with a negative history of Alzheimer's among first-degree relatives but positive history among three or more second-degree relatives still has a two-fold increase in risk and a 17–44 percent increase in risk for those with two or more third-degree relatives. 

Multiple first-degree relatives with a dementia history can prevent a person from obtaining Long-Term Care Insurance from some companies. They have started to use some limited amounts of family history in their underwriting. 

DementiaCare Costly and Usually Not Covered by Health Insurance & Medicare

Health insurance and Medicare(including supplements) will not pay for most long-term care costs, including supervision that many people who are inflicted with Alzheimer's require. 

The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows that care costs continue to rise nationwide, although the costs are lower in some areas of the country than in others. 

Experts suggest reviewing family medical history to determine if you have a higher-than-average risk for dementia. 

If a family member has Alzheimer's Disease, will I have it, too? Full transcript below.

People Need Long-Term Health Care for Many Reasons

People require long-term care services and supports for many reasons, in addition to Alzheimer's. Planning for the future costs and burdens of aging should be an important part of retirement planning. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance may be one of the tools you use to safeguard assets and reduce family stress and anxiety as you get older.

Seek the assistance of a qualified and trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many options available. Be ready to share your family history as you discuss the available options.

Experts say the best time to obtain coverage is when you are in your 40s or 50s. At younger ages, you usually have relatively good health, and premiums are much lower.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

Editor's Note

People require long-term health care for many reasons, not just because of dementia. The costs of care are expensive and get more costly over time. Family caregivers face physical stress and emotional anxiety in the role of being a caregiver.

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance offers guaranteed tax-free benefits for your choice of quality care, including in-home care. A policy will keep you in control and be less dependent on your loved ones. 

LTC NEWS Research Tools 

LTC NEWS offers multiple tools and resources to help you research the financial costs and burdens of aging so you can find an affordable solution. 

Find all the resources on LTC NEWS by clicking here.

One of the best tools is the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator. You can find the current and future costs of long-term health care where you live. This information will help you design an appropriate LTC Insurance policy.

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LTC News Contributor Linda Maxwell
Linda Maxwell

Contributor Since
December 11th, 2017

Former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in.

About the Author

Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.

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