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New study points to greater parental role in Alzheimer's risk

Posted Mar 03 2009 2:49pm

A caregiver sent me an eMail with a link to a study. Published at, this study revises results from previous studies of familial cases of Alzheimer's. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Whereas, earlier research studies reported that children of parents with Alzheimer’s had a 10% chance of getting the disease,Alzheimer's Study Finds Parental Linkinitially paints an ominous picture of memory loss.

The good news?  This is only an initial study; one that invites awareness and asks other scientists to replicate the results. Until then, we don’t have much to be alarmed about.  

Alzheimer's struck BOTH sides of my family--my father and my aunt (my mother's sister). I often wonder, had not heart disease taken my mother first, would she have suffered from a form of dementia (e.g., vascular)?

For the interim, as we wait for replicated results, I’d like to add another variable to this study: Test anxiety.

For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from test anxiety. Consequently, I've had to take heroic measures just to pass a test. In my early-forties, I self-administered the Mini Mental Exam, a thirty-point test given initially to diagnose possible cognitive loss. I scored a 27. If I were thirty to forty years older, a proactive and concerned doctor (maybe one who consults for the pharmaceutical industry) might prescribe cholinesterase inhibitors such as donepezil (Aricept), rivastigmine (Excelon), or galantamine (Razadyne) to delay further decline. But because I was too young to signal alarm bells (and had taken the test to prove a point to older caregivers who were concerned about their own memory loss), my test results elicited laughter and relief. It was likely that these folks enjoying themselves (at my expense) were experiencing bouts of caregiver dementia--memory loss due to the stress and exhaustion associated with caregiving.

Consider how you might feel surrounded by family and medical specialists asking you to spell W-O-R-L-D backwards and trying to recall three words five minutes after your mind has been fixated on why all these people are asking you these questions and what they plan to do with you.

My advice: Keep reading. Be aware. Don’t waste your valuable life in fear. Keep your sense of humor.


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