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Alzheimer's, Dementia - Stressful Life Experiences Age the Brain by Four Years, African Americans Most at Risk

- Four studies highlight racial disparities in dementia risk and incidence -

A series of studies reported at the 2017 Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC 2017) in London confirm racial inequities in numbers of people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias - even after age 90 - and also point to growing evidence that early life stress and neighborhood conditions contribute to dementia risk in late life.


One new study in Wisconsin found that a single major stressful event in early life is equal to four years of cognitive aging, and African Americans are most at risk - on average, they experience over 60 percent more of such events than non-Hispanic Whites over their lifetimes. A second study conducted by a health plan in Northern California found that African Americans born in states with the highest levels of infant mortality had 40 percent increased risk of dementia compared to African Americans not from those states, and 80 percent increased risk compared to Whites not from those states. Other studies reported at AAIC 2017 found:

  • Racial disparities in the risk for new cases of dementia previously observed in the younger elderly continue into the oldest-old (age 90+), which is the fastest-growing segment of the population. Researchers found oldest-old African Americans and Latinos had the highest incidence rates compared to Asian Americans and Whites - matching the overall patterns of racial/ethnic disparities in dementia seen in younger elderly. This is the first time different ethnicities in this older population group have been studied for risk of incident dementia.
  • Neighborhood disadvantage may contribute to observed disparities in prevalence of dementia.

"These studies were done with U.S. data, but they add weight to the global body of evidence around disadvantage and dementia risk, which is an issue governments around the world grapple with, and one that requires coordinated action," said Maria C. Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association chief science officer. "For a racially diverse nation like the United States, and to address Alzheimer's and dementia on a global scale, these findings support the need for targeted interventions, whether preventive or service-driven, to help address the gaps we know exist - and for more research."

"In addition to research on Alzheimer's risk factors and biology, the Alzheimer's Association is particularly interested in increasing understanding of stigma and concern related to Alzheimer's and other dementias in diverse communities," Carrillo said.

Racial disparities in dementia continue into the oldest-old
In younger elderly (65 and older), there are marked differences in rates of dementia by racial/ethnic groups, showing increased rates for African Americans and decreased rates for Asian Americans. The Alzheimer's Association 2017 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures reported that, for all adults 65 and older, African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older Whites and Hispanics are about one and one-half times as likely to have Alzheimer's or other dementias as older Whites. However, it is not known if these discrepancies apply to the oldest-old (90 and older)...CONTINUE READING






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