Alzheimer's Disease Risk in Risk Is Twice That of Whites

By Sullivan, Michele G. | Clinical Psychiatry News, April 2010 | Go to article overview
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Alzheimer's Disease Risk in Risk Is Twice That of Whites

Sullivan, Michele G., Clinical Psychiatry News

WASHINGTON -- Alzheimer's disease is twice as likely to develop in blacks as it is in whites, and 1.5 times more common among Hispanics, a new national report has found.

The discrepancy appears to stem from a combination of higher rates of chronic illness and lower socioeconomic status in the minority populations, Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., said at a meeting of Alzheimer's disease activists on Capitol Hill.

"We can't pinpoint any known genetic factors as the cause of this discrepancy," said Dr. Carrillo, the senior director of medical and scientific relations for the Alzheimer's Association, which sponsored the meeting. "Instead, we think this is due to other factors, especially a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes in the minority communities, and socioeconomic risks that reduce access to health care."

The good news, she said in an interview, is that physicians have a chance to identify these risks and intervene early, minimizing the risks' effect on cognition. "Neurologists and general practice physicians need to understand the importance of managing those risk factors--this is key to delaying cognitive decline and perhaps preventing Alzheimer's and other dementias."

The numbers were drawn from a report by the Alzheimer's Association, "2010 Alzheimer's Facts and Figures." The report based its findings on several national studies of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease in different groups, especially the 2006 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP).

The HRS examined the prevalence of cognitive impairment in 16,273 Americans aged 55 years and older. The data can be extrapolated to represent 16 million Americans in that age group, the report noted.

The overall prevalence of cognitive impairment in the study was 11% for those aged 65 years and older. However, whites had the lowest rate (9%). The rate among blacks was 24%, and among Hispanics, 18%. The discrepancies were higher among younger people. For example, among those aged 55-64 years, blacks were four times more likely to have cognitive impairment than whites; among those aged 85 and older, blacks were twice as likely as whites to have cognitive impairment.

The report also described a similar discrepancy between Hispanics and whites.

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