According to the 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report, the majority of people living in the United States diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias are white. However, older African-Americans and Hispanics are proportionately more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. (1)(2)
As I am Mexican and American Indian descent, I consider this information extremely important. Data that focuses on the prevalence of Alzheimer’s amongst the United States’ racial population is not widely publicized. Endear for Alzheimer’s is a minority owned and operated organization, it is our duty to inform as many people about this information as possible.
Data provided by the Alzheimer’s Association indicate that in the United States, older African-Americans are approximately twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias as older whites,3 Hispanics are slightly more likely, at about one and one-half times probable to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias as older whites.4
The graph below shows the estimated prevalence for each group, by age, from a study done at the Washington Heights- Inwood Columbia Aging Project.
There has been some scientific evidence that suggests that there may be Alzheimer specific genetic factors that would make these races more at risk. However, the current consensus among research professionals is that genetics specific to Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not the cause of such prevalence.5 People of African- American communities have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes; similarly Hispanics have an increased likelihood of developing diabetes. These conditions can also lead to heart disease. Studies have shown that all three of these conditions are risk factors in developing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
This information is incredibly important to myself as well as our nations racial population. These facts are not highly publicized and people need to be aware of their risks in advance to take steps to reduce such risk.
One result of the scarcity of this information is that Blacks and Hispanics are unaware of their additional risk and seek diagnosis much later after developing dementia than whites do. According to a special report by the Alzheimer’s Association about Race Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011, when someone is diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, they are more cognitively and physically impaired – and therefore need more medical care. The graph below shows the financial implications associated with late diagnosis.
Increased awareness of these facts and better management and treatment of those at higher risk may lower the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia among our racial communities.
For African-Americans in the Portland, Oregon area there is a conference focused on ways to reduce risk and further inform our Black community of the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease. The conference is being organized by the PreSERVE Coalition and takes place on Saturday June 2nd, 2012 from 9am-3:30pm. Admission is free. Please follow this link for more information: Aging and Memory in the African American Community Conference
Founder of Endear for Alzheimer’s
1 Dilworth-Anderson P, Hendrie HC, Manly JJ, Khachaturian AS, Fazio S. Diagnosis and assessment of Alzheimer’s disease in
diverse populations. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2008;4(4):305–9.
2 Manly JJ, Mayeux R. Ethnic differences in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In: Anderson N, Bulatao R, Cohen B, eds. Critical perspectives on racial and ethnic differentials in health in late life. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2004:95 –141.
3 Potter GG, Plassman BL, Burke JR, Kabeto MU, Langa KM, Llewellyn DJ, et al. Cognitive performance and informant reports in the diagnosis of cognitive impairment and dementia in African Americans and whites. Alzheimer’s & Dementia 2009;5(6):445–53.
4 Gurland BJ, Wilder DE, Lantigua R, Stern Y, Chen J, Killeffer EH, et al. Rates of dementia in three ethnoracial groups. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 1999;14(6):481–93.
5 Chin AL, Negash S, Hamilton R. Diversity and disparity in dementia: The impact of ethnoracial differences in Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders 2011;25(3):187–95.
Graphs and figures are provided by The annual Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures Report:
Alzheimer’s Association. 2012 Alzheimer’s disease facts and figures. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. March 2012; 8:131–168.
Full report is available here: Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association