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Racial and Ethnic Risk Factors in Alzheimer's

The U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) on Wednesday 5 February 2014, published a short internet note that read:

''February is Black History Month. African-Americans are two times more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s disease than whites and less likely to receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, which results in less time for treatment and planning…”

This is not the first such information on race being a risk factor in Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association has previously published data in this regard…In April 2013 they published a special report “Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s Disease.” A few years prior to that special report (2003) they published a report: “African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Silent Epidemic.”...this report in turn referenced previous research in 2000, 2001 and 2002…this is a decade’s old story...


Research Highlights

“Available data indicates that in the United States, older African-Americans are about two times more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Older Hispanics are about one and one half times more likely than older whites to have these conditions. Limited data exist about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in other racial and ethnic groups, including Asian-Americans and American Indians.”

A newly published study identified a gene that may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease among African-Americans.” * …”the study’s findings must be replicated before the conclusion can be validated…the genetic study did not address the higher prevalence rate among Hispanics.” (See below note on Columbia University gene studies.)

Other factors are also likely to play a role…high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, are more common in African-Americans and Hispanics than in whites…lower levels of education and other socioeconomic characteristics (lower income) among older racial and ethnic minorities may also contribute to increased risk.”

“Medicare data show that African-Americans are less likely than whites to be diagnosed, given the estimated prevalence rates in the United States…when they are diagnosed, African-American and Hispanics…are typically diagnosed in later stages of the disease, resulting in higher use of health care services and substantially higher costs…”


Columbia University Medical Center (News Bulletin – April 9, 2013) New Gene Associated with Almost Doubled Alzheimer’s Risk in African Americans”…ABCA7, a minor gene variant in whites, is major player in African-Americans…African-Americans with a variant of the ABCA7 gene have almost double the risk of developing late-onset Alzheimer’s disease compared with African-Americans who lack the variant…findings strongly suggest that ABCA7 is a definitive genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease among African Americans…we now know that both APOE-e4 and ABCA7 are major genetic risk factors for African-Americans…both genes raise the risk of Alzheimer’s…two-fold


Alzheimer's Graph

Alzheimer's Association Study - 2006



Reader's Comments

Gwen Bush  - Beavercreek, Oregon - (6 February 2014): "I had no idea thanks."

Ken Barnes  - Rotherbank, Liss Forest, United Kingdom - (26 May 2014): "Very interesting Stanton ... I was totally unaware of these facts .. Thank you and keep up spreading the word."

Susu Ibie- London, United Kingdom - (25 March 2015):"I have just read your paper...Africans or black people as a whole, tend to be reserved over their personal issues, which they prefer to keep to themselves. But it is interesting that Alzheimer's is a threat to us as a race. I have never read this before. It is certainly illuminating! Thank you Stan."