You’ve likely heard of Alzheimer’s disease. This common form of dementia affects many seniors, and it impacts their cognitive function and behavior. However, you may not know about some of the different types of Alzheimer’s such as familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD). This brief guide to FAD can help you determine whether you and your family are at risk of this condition.
What Is FAD?
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease become prominent in the senior years. However, people with FAD start to experience the effects of Alzheimer’s disease as early as their 30s. Symptoms like behavioral changes and memory loss are similar to those experienced by all people with Alzheimer’s. The difference between FAD and traditional Alzheimer’s is genetics. Studies suggest FAD is caused by a three-gene mutation that inhibits the body’s ability to develop proteins and leads to early-onset Alzheimer’s.
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Who Is at Risk of FAD?
FAD is a very rare disease, and it accounts for nearly 3 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases. This medical condition is hereditary in nature, and the risk is limited to people whose parents had the disease. In all cases of FAD, at least one of the parents was affected with the condition. There are about 200 family lines around the world with the FAD genetic mutation, so most people are not at risk for this disease.
How Can I Find Out If I Am at Risk of FAD?
If neither of your parents carries the FAD mutation, you are unlikely to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s. If you’re unsure, there are two major types of DNA tests that can provide clarity: diagnostic DNA testing and predictive testing. The former type of test is for people who are already showing signs of FAD and want an exact diagnosis. The latter type is for people with FAD-afflicted relatives who worry they may have inherited the gene. Opinions vary as to the value of predictive testing, but about 10 percent of eligible people decide to undergo the tests.
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How Is FAD Different from Alzheimer’s?
The symptoms of FAD and Alzheimer’s are essentially the same. They both involve the deterioration of mental faculties. The difference between the two diseases is that Alzheimer’s affects people later in life, while FAD can occur much earlier. Many people begin to experience FAD symptoms during adulthood when they have healthy spouses, young children, and full-time jobs. If FAD is unexpected, the sudden changes in mental capacities can take a major toll on families. This is why some people choose to have prescriptive genetic testing beforehand.
While there is no cure for FAD, people with this condition should still strive to make healthy lifestyle choices. Therapy, exercise, and eating healthy meals can make it easier to manage the condition.
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