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Brain Changes Seen in Relatives of People With Alzheimer's
Date:4/17/2013

risk, we don't know when they start developing silent brain changes," he said. "[The new study is] documenting very clearly that asymptomatic family members have twice the rate of silent brain changes and that these changes happen in certain pathways known to be related to Alzheimer's disease."

The findings may help advance research that seeks to prevent Alzheimer's disease by using drugs, he said, and it's not a reason to panic and start to think the worst if you have a family history of the disease. "The findings don't suggest you should worry any more or any less," he said.

Although the study found an association between having a family history of Alzheimer's and showing brain changes related to the disease, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"Having a family history does not mean you will get Alzheimer's disease," said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer's division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. You may be at a higher risk for developing it, but it is not predestined, said Isaacson, who was not involved with the new study.

"Make brain-healthy choices now to help lower this risk," he suggested. "We know that if it is good for the heart it is good for the brain." Such choices include engaging in regular physical activity and eating a healthy low-fat diet.

"It's also important to keep your brain fit by doing something you enjoy -- whether crossword puzzles or learning a foreign language -- every day," Isaacson said.

"If you have a family history, get educated and informed about positive lifestyle choices and consider taking part in an Alzheimer's prevention trial," he said. "We can finally say 'Alzheimer's disease' and 'prevention' in the same sentence, and that is a great thing."

More information

Learn more about how Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed at the Alzheimer's Association
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