Does Alzheimer's disease progress more slowly is you have a high IQ?

Ladylou asked...

I heard that the process of Alzheimer's Disease is very slow with people who are physically healthy and have high IQ's. My husband has had Alzheimer's Disease for 8 years and is just starting stage 6. His sister has had Alzheimer's Disease for 15 years so far and is in stage 7. Both are highly intelligent and were always very healthy. Is this true.

Expert Answer

Helene Bergman, LMSW, is a certified geriatric care manager (C-ASWCM) and owner of Elder Care Alternatives, a professional geriatric care management business in New York City. She consults with nursing homes and daycare programs to develop specialized programs for Alzheimer's patients.

The correlation between intelligence and the progression of Alzheimer's is an interesting and debatable issue. Often you need to break down the IQ (intelligence) into its specific components to evaluate whether it is true. What is the specific ability of the person? Is it abstract thinking? Insight? Sense of humor? Memory? Problem solving? Alzheimer's affects each person differently and individuals with certain abilities (mathematical, scientific, artistic, etc.) often retain their talents as their overall functioning decreases as the disease progresses. When you research artists who have suffered with Alzheimer's, you will see that although their art or music production changes form, they still evidence their talents. This is similar with intelligence. Cognition has many facets so a person who had exceptional logic may retain aspects of this; another person with outstanding communication skills may maintain this. A person with social skills may also sustain their prior interactive capacity. Higher IQ, thus, does not predict the progression of Alzheimer's but may help the afflicted individual sustain specific skills or talents for a longer period of time.