Can Alzheimer’s Disease Be Inherited?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

In part 5 of a 12-part series centered on Memory Rescue, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen shed some light on the role genetics play in your brain health and memory. While some people  may be more predisposed to memory problems than others, there are things any of us can do to keep memory issues at bay.


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Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

Dr. Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit

Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit

Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are continuing our series on memory rescue. The bright mind's approach, I talk about in the new book, which I am so proud of. And we talked about B is for blood flow, R is retirement and aging, I is for inflammation. Today, we're going to talk about genetics.

There is, you know, there are genetic vulnerabilities to having serious memory problems, like Alzheimer's Disease.

Tana Amen: Yeah, it's really easy to get sort of frustrated and angry when you think about that. Because you're like, it's easy to at some points ... Like I know in my life, certain health problems have happened with me. And I would stop and go, "Gosh, it's not fair. Like it's not fair." And then I would think about it, I'm like, I tell my daughter this one thing about being fair. No one told you life is gonna be fair. Fair is a place with bad food and farm animals. Life is just not fair. Right? It's not.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You're talking about the County Fair.

Tana Amen: Right, the County Fair. It isn't fair, it's not gonna be fair. So you have to be proactive. You've got to be a warrior, and you've got to know what to do. And that's what I like about what you're doing here. You're giving people ... Just because the gun is loaded, doesn't mean you pull the trigger.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Well, what I say in the book is that genetic risk is not a death sentence. It should be a wake-up call-

Tana Amen: Right, I like that.

Dr. Daniel Amen: -to get serious about your health. So your family is loaded with mental health problems. Right?

Tana Amen: Mental health problems, as well as all these other things. And I know, even now-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Mental health problems, and diabetes, and-

Tana Amen: And heart disease, and cancer, and-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And my family is loaded with heart disease and obesity. But I don't have heart disease, and I'm not obese. Why? I don't engage in the behaviors making it likely to be so. And so if you know your vulnerability, I have this in my family, yes, you could use it as an excuse to go out and get drunk tonight. You absolutely can do that if you hate yourself.

Tana Amen: You can check out, sure.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Or I think the smarter thing to do is go, "I have this risk factor. What can I do to prevent it?"

Tana Amen: Well, and like I said-

Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's the whole point behind memory rescue.

Tana Amen: Right. So for example, I have a high heart rate because of a thyroid condition. So I wear a watch with a heart rate monitor on it, and I just pay attention. And then when we travel, it irritates me to no end. I'm happy that you are so healthy and you don't get sick, but I have to tell you, every once in a while it annoys me that I get sick so easily, and you ... His idea of getting sick is he comes home one day and he's like, "I'm kind of tired today. I think I'm sick." And I'm like, "What?!" And then the next day he wakes up, and he's totally back to normal. That's him getting sick.

When we travel, I already know, I just know. I have to do 15 steps to make sure that I don't get really sick, and then when we get home, I have 15 more steps to make sure that I don't catch whatever everybody around me had. But guess what? That's just my reality. There's no point whining about it. Just deal with it, know the information, know what to do. Be prepared, aware, and avoid the fight.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So let's talk about the risk factors. So if you have a family member with dementia, that increases your risk. A family member with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, that happens to a lot of people. Because if you live until you're 85 or older, 50% of the population, five zero percent of the population will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia.

If you have the Apolipoprotein E4 gene, you have an increased risk. It's a blood test. And I recommend that my patients do it, because we want to know what is your risk. If you have a build-up of something called beta-amyloid plaques in your brain, and they are new tests to be able to test for it.

Now amyloid's a whole interesting story by itself. Many of us actually don't think it's the cause of Alzheimer's disease. We think it's a protective reaction against something else like an infection or a toxin.

Tana Amen: So it's sort of like something scratching and you build a scar, almost. So your body's trying to go ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's trying to protect you against something else.

Tana Amen: Oh, that's so interesting. It's like a scab.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And that's why, in all of the studies, there have been 2,000 studies showing, okay, we got rid of the beta-amyloid, people got worse not better.

Tana Amen: Oh, so that means they had something else, maybe inflammation, or maybe whatever else ...

Dr. Daniel Amen: Mold exposure, an infection like Lyme, or something along that. So the whole amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer's disease is dying.

Tana Amen: Well, that's kind of like high cholesterol. They think cholesterol is a sign that something's going on in your body, as opposed to just getting rid of it and putting a bandaid over it. Figure out what's happening.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right. And so the lab test for this risk factor is there are certain genes, but the most common one is called the APOE E4 gene. And you can test to see if you have it. And if you have one of them, so we have two sets of genes, one from our dad, one from our mom. If you have one of them, you have a 250% increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.

But let me just explain that. So say, for example, the general population before 85 has a 5% risk of Alzheimer's disease. That means you'll now be at a 12.5% risk. But if you have both genes, you now have a 10-fold or 1,000% increased risk. So that's almost 50%, and that's a lot. So what are the interventions?

If you have dementia in your family, you need to be serious about brain health as soon as possible, for as long as possible. And we believe you should be screened, including the SPECT scans that we do here at Amen Clinic, by the age of 40 if you have it in your family, 50 if you don't. So if you have the E4 gene, I think it is just absolutely critical to avoid contact sports like football, or hitting soccer balls with your head. And then you want to do things to decrease the beta-amyloid.

We actually found there are actually some super simple things to decrease that toxic build-up in your brain. So in the book, we talk about supplements to support if you have the genetic risk, especially curcumins from the spice turmeric. But you make salmon curry chowder.

Tana Amen: Yeah, so I really love, obviously, the food part of this. Because the food part really is the fun part of this, and it works, and it's delicious, and we know that these spices really help. So really increasing the spice content of your food will also help you decrease some of the things you've been used to that you probably should be cutting out, if you really want to avoid this.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So before I get to the ...

Tana Amen: Those heavy sauces.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Let me talk a little bit more about supplements. So we actually make something with BrainMD called brain curcumins.

Tana Amen: Because it takes a lot of curry, it takes a lot of ... Most people don't eat it.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't like the taste of curry, and so I have two of our brain curcumins every day, because it also helps my joint pain. It decreases inflammation, so another huge positive thing about curcumins.

Resveratrol, from the skin of red grapes, and some people think that's why alcohol consumption can decrease the risk, I'm not a fan, because people know-

Tana Amen: But it takes more resveratrol than that, and less alcohol.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And in NeuroVite Plus, our multivitamin, we actually have the equivalent amount of resveratrol as two glasses of wine.

Tana Amen: Without the alcohol.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Without the alcohol.

Green tea extract has been found to decrease beta-amyloid-

Tana Amen: Wow, I always have my afternoon green tea.

Dr. Daniel Amen: -plaque. Blueberry extract, Panax ginseng, and ashwagandha. We have both of those in Focus and Energy, and Coenzyme Q10. So there are clearly supplements you can take, if you have the genetic vulnerability, to support your health.

And then where you were going was foods. I'll talk about what to avoid, you talk about what to eat. So you want to avoid high-glycemic foods, foods that quickly turn to sugar. Saturated fats, not all of them, such as in pizza, processed cheese, and microwave popcorn.

Tana Amen: But also industrial-raised animals. The palmitic acid, the fat that comes in industrial-raised animals increases ... That's the bad saturated fat, and it's 30% higher in industrial-raised animals.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So talk about some of the foods to eat.

Tana Amen: Okay. So what I love is spices, spices, and more spices. So what you were just talking about. A lot of people don't like some of those spices, so that's where some of the supplements can really help.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Oh, the fights we have had at home.

Tana Amen: I know, yes, over some of the spices. So yes, I love spices. I love adding them to everything. And for me, because of what I've been through, it's more about does it work? Does it not work? Is it medicine? Is it not? It's not so much about the taste.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Yeah, but for me it's all about taste.

Tana Amen: Right, it's all about taste.

Dr. Daniel Amen: There is no suffering in getting well.

Tana Amen: And see, I don't even think of it that way.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Like, I don't really like the taste of curry. But I'll take the curcumin.

Tana Amen: And I will dump a bottle of curry in something, because I just don't care, as long as I know it's good for me. So we've found our balance, six cookbooks later.

Dr. Daniel Amen: But if you're cooking for someone like me, don't torture them. Because they won't eat it, and then they're just bitter.

Tana Amen: Six cookbooks and 400 recipes later, we have figured this out. Yes, it's been a lot of testing recipes, I will tell you.

Dr. Daniel Amen: I don't like this.

Tana Amen: Yes. So those spices, things like the curcumin, the curry, the ... gosh, my favorites, ginger or saffron. I love putting saffron in my tea.

Dr. Daniel Amen: You can't believe the number of studies with saffron.

Tana Amen: I just put it in my tea. I just put a couple threads.

Dr. Daniel Amen: It helps your mood, it helps PMS, and it directly helps to support memory.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And there are actually studies with saffron and Alzheimer's disease.

Tana Amen: Well I'm not a person that cooks with a lot of saffron, so I just grab a couple strands and throw it in my tea. I just love it.

All of these things are great for memory. Oregano, basil-

Dr. Daniel Amen: Rosemary.

Tana Amen: -rosemary, thyme, sage. We use all of those, and we use them regularly.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Sage, according to, had A-level scientific evidence for memory.

Tana Amen: Well we use a lot of it, so ... lots and lots. Not only can you put them in sauces, they'll help you decrease some of those heavy fats that you've been used to using, those heavy sauces, the spices really help. But they're gonna improve your mood, they decrease inflammation, they improve your memory. They help with all this stuff, and they just make your food taste so amazing.

So we have lots of recipes. Brain Warrior's Way Cookbook is one of my favorites, and I have an entire section in there on spices and herbs, and how to use them.

Dr. Daniel Amen: And you didn't talk about chocolate, because you also have nutty butter cups. So chocolate is one of those ...

Tana Amen: I've got 10 recipes in that cookbook with chocolate, how to use chocolate and cacao. Yeah, it's amazing.

Dr. Daniel Amen: So let tell you a story. Chalene Johnson, one of our friends, is a New York Times bestselling author. She has over a million fans on Facebook, she teaches people how to get healthy. She and I did a podcast together, and at the end of the podcast, she goes, "I have ADD." And she came to the clinic, and she had ADD. But she also had a family history of Alzheimer's disease. And on her scan, which was not healthy, I could see her brain was going to head to the dark place. And she's only 46 years old.

But, you know, Chalene reminded me of my NFL players. A lot of our high-performing patients, they like being coached. They take the coaching. It's like, "Put me in, coach! I'll do what you ask me to do, so that I can perform better."

Tana Amen: I'm always taking classes.

Dr. Daniel Amen: Right, well you're excellent at being coached. And if you go on Chalene Johnson's Facebook page, she and I did an hour live chat on her before scan and her after scan, and how it changed her life. But it didn't just change her life, it changed her genetic destiny. Because when I was in medical school, we saw genes as something you had or you didn't have. And then in the 1990s, there was a new term that popped up called epigenetics. And what that meant was your habits turn on or off certain genes that make illness more or less likely in you, but also in your babies and grandbabies.

So when our three daughters were born, they were born with all of the eggs they'll ever have. And throughout their life, their behavior and their environment is turning on or off certain genes in those eggs, making illness more or less likely in their babies and their grandbabies.

Tana Amen: It was really funny. Chloe, actually, because we've been telling her that forever. And so she was hilarious. She came to us, actually, I was helping her get ready. She was going on a trip, and she was packing her food, as she always does. And she looked at me, and she goes, "You know, it's a lot of responsibility knowing all the stuff you guys have taught me." It was just hilarious. Because she's only 14, she just turned 14. And she's been doing this for a couple years. And she's like, "It's just a lot of responsibility knowing all of this."

Dr. Daniel Amen: It's serious, which is why we call this podcast The Brain Warrior's Way. Stay with us. When we come back, we're gonna talk about head trauma.

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