Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia which can have disastrous consequences for the affected individuals and the close family members. It is disastrous for the individual concerned because he loses his memory and therefore loses all his past life. It is disastrous for the family members because it is extremely painful to see a dear one wither away before their eyes.
The precise cause for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is not known. The brains of the affected individuals contain beta amyloid plaques which produce neuronal tangles. What causes the production of these plaques is not understood. The risk for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is increased by several factors including obesity and chronic insomnia. Statistical evidence also suggests the presence of a genetic link.
Recent studies carried out in France have suggested that the risk for the acquiring of Alzheimer’s disease is greatly increased if your own mother was a victim. The study was carried out on 47 individuals in their sixties. All the individuals had similar age and had similar educational levels. They also scored similarly in cognitive tests and other tests pointing to Alzheimer’s disease. The individuals were divided into three groups. The first group had no family history of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease (no history). The second group consisted of individuals with a history of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the father’s side (paternal history) and the third group consisted of people who had a history of Alzheimer’s disease in the mother’s side (maternal history).
All the three groups were subjected to PET (positron emission tomography) imaging of the brain. Two types of imaging were carried out. The first involved the measurement of glucose utilization in the brain. The normal functioning of the brain depends on the efficient utilization of glucose by the brain. Any malfunctioning of the brain would lead to a decrease in the consumption of glucose by the brain. The second imaging involved detecting the presence of amyloid like plaques. The no history group and the paternal history group did not show signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The individuals in the maternal history group showed decreased glucose utilization and also exhibited amyloid plaque like structures in the brain.
This study indicates that if there is a history of Alzheimer’s disease on your maternal side, your risk for acquiring Alzheimer’s disease greatly increases.