Research shows that having Alzheimer's disease on the mother's side can increase the hereditary risk

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A mother with Alzheimer's may lead to a higher risk of hereditary disease than a paternal history.

That's according to a recent study from Mass General Brigham. Researchers analyzed 4,400 adults between the ages of 65 and 85 who showed no signs of cognitive decline but did show amyloid on brain scans.

The people with the higher levels of amyloid were more likely to have mothers with symptoms of Alzheimer's —mainly memory loss, the researchers found.

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Amyloid, a protein that builds up in the brain and forms plaques that affect cognitive function, is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease (AD).

The findings were published in June in JAMA Neurology.

New research shows that a mother with Alzheimer's has a higher risk of a hereditary disease than a mother with Alzheimer's. (iStock)

“Our study showed a striking asymmetry in the impact of maternal versus paternal history of dementia on the risk of amyloid-beta protein accumulation in the brains of offspring, with maternal history “It has a bigger impact,” senior corresponding author Hyun-Sik Yang, MD, a neurologist at Mass General Brigham, told Fox News Digital via email.

“Our study found that the mother had a history of dementia and that this increased the risk of preclinical AD in her children, while the father's history had less influence.”

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The researchers — a collaboration between Mass General Brigham, Vanderbilt and Stanford — expected that mothers and fathers would pass on similar genetic risks, Yang noted.

“Our results suggest otherwise and raise interesting questions about the genetics of AD and how AD risk is inherited,” he said.

Mother and daughter

“Our study found that maternal history of dementia increased the risk of preclinical AD in her children, while paternal history had less influence,” a researcher said. (iStock)

The study participants had what's known as “preclinical Alzheimer's disease,” Yang said, a disease in which amyloid builds up but there are no symptoms.

“This phase could provide a unique opportunity to treat AD before it irreversibly destroys the brain,” he said.

The researchers also found an association between amyloid buildup and a history of Alzheimer's on both sides of the family, and in fathers with young-onset dementia.

“It's interesting from a genetic point of view to see that one sex contributes something that the other sex doesn't.”

“If your father had symptoms at a young age, that is associated with increased levels in your offspring,” said Mabel Seto, PhD, lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the Brigham Institute's Department of Neurology, in a press release.

“However, it doesn't matter when your mother first started developing symptoms. If she did, it's associated with elevated amyloid levels.”

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Women are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's than menaccording to data from the Alzheimer's Society.

“It's very interesting from a genetic perspective to see that one sex contributes something that the other sex doesn't,” Seto said.

Limitations of the study

Courtney Kloske, PhD, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago, Illinois, was not involved in the study but shared her insights on the findings.

“This study sheds light on the interplay between genetics and cognition in individuals with a family history of cognitive decline,” Kloske told Fox News Digital in an email.

Amyloid beta

A protein called amyloid that builds up in the brain and forms plaques, affecting cognitive function, is one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. (iStock)

The expert pointed out some limitations of the study, which the researchers also acknowledged.

“The authors note that their findings should be interpreted with caution,” she said.

An important limitation was that study participants self-reported their family history, which could introduce some degree of bias or inaccuracy.

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“In addition, the generally longer lifespan of women compared to men may contribute to the higher observed prevalence of cognitive impairment in women,” Kloske adds.

Yang also spoke about this limitation, adding that the study participants older adults and that average life expectancy in their parents' generation was shorter, especially for men.

Brain scan

Although elevated amyloid levels significantly increase the risk of dementia, more research is needed to determine the full impact of family history on the course of Alzheimer's disease. (AP News Desk)

“That could make it even more difficult to estimate the true risk of dementia in their fathers, because they may have died before they reach the age at which dementia is more common,” he said.

Another consideration, Kloske says, is that the parents in the current study lived in a “different, earlier era” when women were less likely to be in the labor market and lower education levels.

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“These trends limit the generalizability of these results,” she said.

Yang also reiterated that none of the study participants had dementia. “We asked about their family history and compared it to the results of the amyloid PET scan.”

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While elevated amyloid levels significantly increase a person's risk of eventually developing dementia, Yang noted: more research is needed to determine the full impact of family history on the course of Alzheimer's disease.

CT scan in the hospital

According to data from the Alzheimer's Society, women are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's than men. (iStock)

“We believe it is important that physicians who assess patients with dementia collect detailed family history information, including both parents' medical history and their age at onset, if there was a history of memory loss or dementia,” he said.

According to the researcher, it is also important to look for ways to reduce the risk, especially if someone has a family history.

For more health articles, visit www.foxnews/health

“Lifestyle and environmental factors are thought to play an important role in dementia risk,” Yang said.

“I always tell my patients to focus on a healthy lifestylesuch as a heart-healthy diet, regular exercise, and a socially and intellectually active lifestyle.”

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