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Here's Why African Americans Are More Likely To Have Alzheimer's Disease Than Whites

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Members of the African American community are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer's disease and other dementia compared with whites. Experts offer several reasons that could explain the increased risk.  ( Pixabay )

About 5.7 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's disease, a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills.

Twice As Likely To Have Alzheimer's

The condition particularly affects older people. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in 10 individuals above 65 years old have Alzheimer's.

A surprising fact about Alzheimer's is many African Americans are far more likely to suffer from it or other forms of dementia than whites.

Joanne Pike, vice president of programs for the Alzheimer's Association in Chicago, said African Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer's. Sadly, they are also less likely to receive a diagnosis and more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease.

Why African Americans Have Higher Risk For Alzheimer's Disease

Researchers think the increased risk is partly because of some health issues that are more prevalent in the African American community.

Indiana University School of Medicine assistant professor of psychiatry Daniel Bateman said African Americans have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol compared to whites, and these are all risk factors for Alzheimer's and dementia.

Pike also said lower education and income are other probable causes of the condition. A 2014 report from the Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) showed that having good education and keeping the brain active play a role in reducing chances of developing dementia.

Pike said that one problem with determining why there is higher incidence of Alzheimer's among African Americans is they are not well represented in research studies, clinical trials, and screenings that produce early diagnosis.

She also blamed lack of public awareness or understanding, saying stigma related to mental illness and diseases like dementia prevents people from getting treatment or diagnosis.

Seek Medical Help

Rushern Baker III, whose wife Christa Beverly was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's offered an advice to members of the African American and even Latino communities, urging them to seek medical attention if they suspect something is wrong.

"If you think there is something wrong with a family member, they are forgetting things, it is important that you seek medical attention. Once you get the diagnosis, it is not the end of the world. There are ways to make your life and your loved one's life as comfortable and rewarding as possible."

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