TWO TO THREE TIMES THE RATE FOR WHITE COUNTERPARTS
African-Americans aged 55 to 64 are more than three times as likely to have Alzheimer’s as their European-American (white) counterparts, according to studies released by the Alzheimer’s Association. Between the ages of 65 to 84, African-Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s as whites, as the difference in incidence diminishes with age.
Obesity increases the risk of dementia because it can lead to damage of the blood vessels in the brain which in turn leads to the death of brain cells. People who are obese in mid-life are 74% more likely to have dementia, while overweight people are 35% more likely to have dementia compared with those with normal weight.
In a 2010 research study scientists found a pattern of diminished brain volume in those with a variant of the gene known as FTO. A spokesperson for the Alzheimer’s Society said: “We’ve known for some time that there’s a link between obesity in mid-life and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. However this study suggests that healthy people who carry a specific DNA sequence associated with obesity could be at a greater risk of developing dementia.”
As a general population, African-Americans have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardio-vascular disease than do whites. All are known links to onset of the disease.
LEGACY OF UNEQUAL EDUCATION
Intellectual development, particularly when continued as an adult, has been demonstrated to lower the risk factors related to Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Many predominately black schools in the South operated at different educational standards than those for whites during most of the 20th century. There were fewer school days in a school year and much of the classroom material taught was not as challenging or far-reaching as was taught in white schools.
MEDICAL RESEARCH HAMPERED BY HISTORY OF ABUSES
Many African-Americans are still understandably cautious about medical research studies, still mindful of the notorious syphilis studies conducted upon blacks in the mid-50’s at the. At best, these studies were unethical as a particularly virulent strain of syphilis was tested upon unknowing African-Americans so researchers could monitor the effects.
Legitimate and non-invasive medical research is needed in greater numbers to more accurately define how this fatal disease is affecting and impacting African-Americans to aid in the identification of the lessening of risk factors.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in America. It is the most common form of dementia. Over time, Alzheimer’s begins to erase the patient’s memory and may cause a range of problems with personal behavior and cognitive skills until it eventually kills the patient.
Alzheimer’s is currently the only one of the top 10 causes of death in America for which there is no prevention, treatment to slow its progression, or a cure. There are no Alzheimer’s survivors.
One million people will develop dementia in the next 10 years. Dementia research is desperately under-funded, however with the right investment, it can be defeated.