Alzheimer’s Disease: The Growing Disparity in Minorities

By 2060, Hispanics and African Americans in the U.S. will see the most significant increase in Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. April is National Minority Health Month, and it’s perfect timing to understand better the growing disparity in minorities for Alzheimer’s disease. While you can’t prevent Alzheimer’s right now, knowing your risk is vital for early intervention.

National Minority Health Month

Race, Ethnicity, and Alzheimer’s

Dementia is a general term for a group of conditions that impair your ability to remember, think, or make decisions. Regardless of the kind of dementia, each progressively damages the brain and eventually interferes with the ability to do everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, affecting over 6 million Americans. The breakdown of prevalence by age group, gender, and ethnicity is as follows:

  • Age group:
    • Ages 65-74:
      • 75 million (27%)
    • Ages 75-84:
      • 41 million (37.2%)
    • Ages 85 and older:
      • 31 million (35.7%)
    • Gender:
      • 4 million are women
      • 5 million are men
    • Race/Ethnicity:
      • Caucasian- 10%
      • African American- 19%
      • Hispanic- 14%

Hispanic older couple

Future Estimates and Risk Factors

By 2060, Alzheimer’s disease cases are predicted to rise to an estimated 14 million people, with minority populations bearing the brunt of the growth. Health officials expect the number of Hispanic cases to increase seven-fold, with African Americans cases quadrupling. But why? By starting with the risk factors for AD, several clues emerge. First, the risk for AD increases with age, which is the greatest known risk factor. The baby boom generation (the largest ever demographic generation in America) are in their 76th year in 2022. In addition, as more people grow older every year, the 65 and older age group population increases.

Next, aside from age, genetics, and family history, growing evidence supports a link between brain health and chronic conditions like:

  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

vascular system

You also have to keep in mind that every cell in our bodies, including our brains, relies on a steady flow of oxygen-rich blood and nutrients that flow through our vast network of veins and arteries. Without these vital nutrients, the cells cannot function and will die. Some of the most substantial evidence shows that any condition interrupting this process can increase your risk of vascular dementia and AD. These conditions damage the blood vessels in the body. Ultimately, the brain and rest of the body can’t get the nourishment it needs to keep up with the demand.

Turning Disparity into Empowerment

Finally, of the risk factors listed above, Hispanic and African American individuals are the top 2 ethnic groups most likely to have those conditions and more likely to be overweight or obese. The purpose of National Minority Health Month is to highlight the importance of improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities and reducing health disparities. That’s why we are helping create awareness around how Alzheimer’s affects different populations.

Knowing the risks empowers you to affect the factors you can change. Making healthier lifestyle choices like eating healthy and moving more will improve your overall health and may help you lower your risk of AD. One day, we will be able to prevent Alzheimer’s. Until then, you can better understand your risk while helping to advance treatment and prevention options as a research volunteer.

Worried about forgetting things?

North Georgia Clinical Research Center has Alzheimer’s prevention studies enrolling now. Call (678) 494-5735 or visit our website for more information today!