Alzheimer’s run in the family? You may battle memory issues as early as your 20s, study finds

PHOENIX — Alzheimer’s is an awful disease typically associated with elderly people. It is a nasty neurological disorder that, in many ways, can be harder to deal with than many purely physical ailments. Now, new research suggests that those with a genetic predisposition to the disorder may begin experiencing lapses in memory as early in life as their twenties.

Researchers out of the University of Arizona and the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) utilized data collected by MindCrowd, an online memory test designed to assess how healthy brains function. For the study, 59,571 MindCrowd participants between the ages of 18 and 85 were analyzed, and the impact of family history was accounted for across every age group under 65.

After analyzing all of the data, researchers concluded that, on average, individuals under 65 with a family history of Alzheimer’s did not perform as well on the memory test compared to those within the same age groups with no family history of Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, this family history effect on memory appeared to be especially prevalent among men, those with diabetes, and those with less formal education.

Alzheimer’s has long been thought of as a hereditary disease that is passed down from generation to generation, but this is the first study that has found tangible warning signs as early as three or four decades before the disorder typically begins to set in.

“In this study we show that family history is associated with reduced paired-associate learning performance as many as four decades before the typical onset of Alzheimer’s disease,” explains senior author Dr. Matt Huentelman in a media release.

Unfortunately, there is no cure all for preventing the memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s, so the study’s authors say it is imperative that those at risk take steps as early as possible in life to keep their minds sharp.

“This study supports recommendations underscoring the importance of living a healthy lifestyle and properly treating disease states such as diabetes,” comments Dr. Joshua S. Talboom, the study’s lead author.

The study was published in the scientific journal eLife.