Summary: Middle-aged people whose parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s tend to have higher blood pressure and, at least in the lab, their blood produces more proteins that contribute to inflammation. These characteristics may increase their risk of developing dementia. Controlling high blood pressure in this group could lower their overall risk.
Eric van Exel, MD, Ph.D.
A new study led by Eric van Exel at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam compared characteristics of 206 middle-aged people whose parents were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s to those of 200 people of similar age whose parents were cognitively normal.As expected, more children with a parental history of Alzheimer’s carried the APOE4 genetic variation that increases the risk of dementia. Independent from their APOE4 status, these children also had higher blood pressure and in the lab, their blood produced more of certain proteins that contribute to inflammation.
Last month, a group of people with memory loss, their families and doctors successfully petitioned the French Alzheimer’s Association to drop plans to promote a video of people who appeared to have very advanced dementia in dire situations.
This week, I got an email invitation from the national Alzheimer’s Association to view a similar video of a young daughter dealing with her confused and paranoid mother. It has the same feel as the French Alzheimer’s Association video – stark and flat, with dark music in the background.
This video may represent one family’s reality. But with the help of treatments, adjustments to lifestyle, coping mechanisms and friends and family, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and other dementias often lead interesting and pleasant lives. Why not a video showing someone volunteering in the community, enjoying his family, or playing a musical instrument?
There’s still too much shame and horror about a diagnosis of dementia, and some of that is fed by one-dimensional portrayals like this video. We need to balance our view by focusing on the strength and dignity of people with memory loss.
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