Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

Racial disparity in dementia risk, experts report

Racial disparity in dementia risk, experts report

The subjects' average age was 58 and included 1,232 white Americans and 82 African Americans.

Zuelsdorff - the University of Wisconsin epidemiologist whose study found that higher levels of stress among African-Americans have the effect of speeding the aging of a person's brain - has spent a decade or more looking at how stressful experiences affect cognitive abilities.

The results showed that a larger number of stressful events was linked to poorer cognitive function in later life.

In one study, findings suggest that stress can take years off an individual's life in terms of brain function. The findings from a large-scale trial led by the University of Exeter, King's College London and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2017 (AAIC). During the period she focused on, the black infant mortality rate was almost twice as high as whites'.

African-Americans born in those states had a 40 percent higher risk of dementia than blacks who were not born in states with high infant mortality rates.

"Adversity is a clear contributor to racial disparities in cognitive ageing, and further study is imperative", said researcher on the study Megan Zuelsdorff.

The new research, presented at a conference in London on Sunday, looks at how stress and dementia are related, with the results helping account for higher incidents of such degenerative diseases among African Americans in the United States, who are nearly twice as likely to suffer from the disease over the age of 65.

"These studies were done with US data, but they add weight to the global body of evidence around disadvantage and dementia risk, which is an issue government around the world grapple with, and one that requires coordinated action", Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer's Association chief science officer, said in a statement.

A 2010 study by the University of Gothenburg, which lasted 35 years, reported a link between stress in middle age in women and late-life dementia.

"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.

The study did not look at the risk of dementia and experts said there could be many different factors at play.

"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.

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