Both Hispanics from Caribbean countries and African Americans are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than Caucasians, according to a new study, “Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in African Americans, Caribbean Hispanics and Caucasians in Northern Manhattan,” recently published in Neurology magazine.

This area of research is particularly important because the number of Caribbean Hispanics and African Americans who are 65 and older in the U.S. is currently increasing more rapidly than the number of elderly Caucasians.

The study, conducted over a seven-year period by the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, examined 1,072 New York residents between the ages of 75-90.

“We are continuing this study and exploring reasons for the differences in rates,” explained Richard Mayeux, PhD, one of the lead researchers from the Gertrude H. Sergievsky Center at Columbia University. “So far, no risk factors completely explain the differences [in Alzheimer’s rates] between the ethnic groups.”

A particularly important finding for all sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of race or ethnicity, was the presence of the APOE-e4 gene in persons more apt to develop Alzheimer’s. However, Mayeux adds, “Among the 70% of the population without the APOE-e4 gene, the risk [of developing the disease] is two to three times higher for African Americans and Hispanics than for whites.”

Another factor that increases people’s risk of developing the disease is their education and employment level. According to previous studies, the risk for developing Alzheimer’s is twice as high among those with low-income occupations and less than eight years of education. While this finding does not directly correlate to an ethnic disparity, statistics show that blacks and Hispanics often have lower education and income levels than Caucasians.

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Alzheimer’s researchers believe their findings indicate a need for more research into the correlation between race and Alzheimer’s and for increased distribution of information on mental health issues to elderly Hispanics and blacks.

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