In the vast majority of cases of early onset Alzheimer’s, the cause is still unclear. It is likely to be a combination of our lifestyle and genetic factors.

Can I inherit early-onset Alzheimer’s? In most cases the answer is no. Inherited or ‘familial’ forms of Alzheimer’s are very rare.

Several genes have been found that play a role in the development of familial Alzheimer’s. Mistakes in these genes (called mutations) can cause the build-up of a toxic protein called amyloid in the brain.

If someone has a strong family history of Alzheimer’s at a young age, a doctor may suggest genetic testing to close relatives and refer them on for genetic counselling. For more information, see our information about Genes and dementia here.

In the vast majority of cases, the cause is still unclear. It is likely to be a combination of our lifestyle and genetic factors.

Some of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are the same as for heart disease and stroke. By leading a healthy lifestyle, you will be helping to keep your heart healthy, and it’s likely you’ll be lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s too.

To keep healthy:

  • don’t smoke
  • drink fewer than 14 units of alcohol per week
  • keep active and exercise regularly
  • eat a healthy balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight
  • keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control.

Some studies suggest that an active social life, with lots of interests and hobbies, may also be beneficial.

Early-onset Alzheimer's

This leaflet aims to give an introduction to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It’s for anyone who might be worried about themselves or somebody else.


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Alzheimer’s Research UK has a wide range of information about dementia. Order booklets or download them from our online form.

This information was updated in March 2020 and is due for review in March 2022. It does not replace any advice that doctors, pharmacists or nurses may give you. Please contact us if you would like a version with references.

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Dementia Research Infoline

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