Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities Increase Dementia Risk and Incidence

Stressful life experience and living in a disadvantaged neighborhood may explain part of the outsized risk of dementia within the African American community, according to several studies reported at AAIC. A single major stressful event in early life, for instance, may have the same negative impact as four years of cognitive aging. This same study found that African Americans, on average, are over 60 percent more likely to experience such events than white Americans over their lifetimes.

An additional study found that certain socioeconomic neighborhood conditions – like level of poverty, substandard housing, low education rates, and underemployment – were correlated with poor cognitive performance. Meanwhile, a third study found that racial/ethnic disparities persist even into the oldest-old – individuals aged 90 and older; African Americans in this age group have a 28 percent higher risk of developing dementia than their white peers even after adjusting for education, sex, and cardiovascular co-morbidities.

Identify and promote culturally-appropriate strategies designed to increase public awareness about dementia, reduce conflicting messages, decrease stigma, and promote early diagnosis.
Studies like these are further evidence of the unique burden of dementia faced by African Americans and populations with disadvantaged life circumstances. They also offer new insight into explaining why some racial and ethnic minorities are at a disproportionately higher risk of developing dementia beyond strictly physiological risk factors – such as a higher prevalence of certain cardiovascular conditions. Public health practitioners can implement large population-based interventions with special attention to lifespan, neighborhood conditions, and cultural adaptations to begin addressing these disparities.

Communities nationwide are already tackling this issue. Learn more about cognitive issues among African Americans through our infographic as well as national and localized efforts to turn the tide against Alzheimer’s in the African American community through a joint webinar co-hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association and The Balm in Gilead.

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