• By Laurel Kelly

Consumer Health: Are there ‘Alzheimer’s disease genes?’

March 30, 2022
a graphic representation of a strand of DNA, highlighting the four base letters - G, C, A and T

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to waste away and die. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, which is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily function.

As many as 5.8 million people in the U.S. were living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And the number of people living with the disease doubles every five years beyond 65.

The exact causes of Alzheimer's disease aren't fully understood. Scientists believe that for most people Alzheimer's disease is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.

Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, including rare mutations in three genes that virtually guarantee a person who inherits one of them will develop Alzheimer's, but these mutations account for less than 1% of people with Alzheimer's disease. Researchers suspect that many more genes that haven't been identified yet affect the risk of Alzheimer's disease, as well.

Connect with other caregivers talking about Alzheimer's disease in the Caregivers: Dementia support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.