Genetic testing for Alzheimer’s

These days, most everyone is wondering if they are likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. If someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with the disease, you might feel at especially high risk. There is a test for an Alzheimer’s gene (APOE4). But it’s not 100% certain: Not everyone who has the APOE4 gene will get Alzheimer’s. And not everyone who has Alzheimer’s has this gene variant.

Should you get the test? Since there is no cure, how would the outcome affect you? Here are some questions to consider:

What would you do differently?

If you tested positive for the gene, what would you change? For instance:

  • Diet and lifestyle changes may contribute to lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s. These same changes might also lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Would you be willing to make these changes without knowledge of your Alzheimer’s risk?
  • Would you work longer and save more against future medical or caregiving expenses? Or would you retire earlier to make sure you have time for all those activities on your “bucket list”?

Who would you tell?

  • Are you emotionally prepared to handle a positive result? Consider other stresses in your life. Is this a good time to get tested? Do you have support?
  • How might your family react? Will it change your relationship with your partner? What about with your children?
  • Do you want your boss, insurance carrier, or doctor to know? Once the results are in your medical record, they may be difficult to conceal. This could affect your getting long-term care, disability benefits, or life insurance.

To test or not to test is a very personal decision. For support, consider seeking the advice of a genetic counselor. You might also check out an online community of people at who have tested positive for the APOE4 gene.