African Americans are the most at risk for developing Alzheimer's, study finds

Hearing loss linked to early memory and thinking problems

Hearing loss linked to early memory and thinking problems

In four different studies presented at the Alzheimer's Association's annual conference in London on Sunday, July 16, researchers found that the conditions that have disproportionate impact on blacks such as poor living conditions and potentially disruptive events, which include divorce of parents, chronic unemployment, and loss of sibling, may have severe effect on their brain health later in life. The average age of the subjects was 58, and it included 1,232 white Americans and 82 African Americans.

Researchers from Wisconsin University in the United States also found that African American experienced 60 per cent more stressful events than white people during their lifetimes.

The stress of poverty and life in disadvantaged neighborhoods raises the likelihood of Alzheimer's disease, and African Americans are one-and-a-half times more at risk of developing the cognitive disorder than whites, several new studies find.

Wisconsin University's school of medicine and public health led a team of experts in the U.S. and found that even one major stressful event earlier in life may impact brain health later on.

This is the first study to look at racial disparity in the risk of incident dementia among this older population.

A second study out of Northern California from health care company Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, Irvine, found that African Americans born in states with the highest levels of infant mortality had a 40% increased risk compared to whites not from those states in developing the disease. During the period she focused on, the black infant mortality rate was almost twice as high as whites'.

"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", she adds.

In their case, each stressful event was equivalent to approximately four years of cognitive ageing.

"I think this is important because it contributes more information to a growing body of evidence that early life matters to brain health, and that maybe early life conditions partially explain the racial disparities we see in dementia risk", Gilsanz said.

The study, which has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented at the Alzheimer's Association worldwide conference in London.

"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", says Carrillo.

The findings back up earlier studies that link stress and changes in the brain.

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