Why are black Americans more affected by Alzheimer’s than the rest of the population?

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Alzheimer's disease

Over the years, researchers have demonstrated that Black Americans are more likely than other racial groups to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. These observations were based on the fact that they had, on average, higher rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

But four new studies, presented on July 16 at the annual conference of the Alzheimer’s Association in London and explained by the Washington Post , focused on the social factors that increase the risk of being prone to this disease among Afro Americans, such as divorce, loss of a loved one, poverty or chronic unemployment.

A poorer and more stressed population

According to Megan Zuelsdorff, an epidemiologist at the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, is the social environment that helps c es disparities“.

With his team, they demonstrated that blacks were more likely than whites to live stressful situations. By asking more than 1,300 people if they had experienced difficult things in school, if their families had suffered financial problems, or if their parents were alcoholics, the researchers discovered that African Americans interviewed had lived on average 60 % more stressful events than whites.

The University of Wisconsin team then demonstrated that stress decreased cognitive function and accelerated brain aging, making it more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers evaluated that in black people, the lifetime of the brain is on average decreased by 4 years because of stress, compared with 1 year and a half in white people. A huge disparity, which is explained by the fact that blacks often live stressful situations due to their more difficult living conditions.

The researchers evaluated that in black people, the lifetime of the brain is on average decreased by 4 years because of stress, compared with 1 year and a half in white people. A huge disparity, which is explained by the fact that blacks often live stressful situations due to their more difficult living conditions.

Geographical disparities

A second study by the University of Wisconsin showed that living in a poor and difficult neighborhood was linked to the decline in cognitive functions and biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease. By mapping 34 million neighborhoods, the researchers created an Area Deprivation Index by classifying the neighborhoods studied from the most privileged to the least privileged.

They then studied the clinical records of more than 1,500 people tested in a study of Alzheimer’s disease in Wisconsin. The result was clear: people living in the poorest neighborhoods were on average the poorest in cognitive function tests and those with disproportionately higher amounts of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. The proportion of African-Americans living in poor neighborhoods is higher than that of any other racial group in the United States.

In two other studies conducted by Kaiser Permanente  – a US medical organization that offers health care and health insurance – and the University of California at San Francisco, researchers have shown that the risk of dementia is increased in people who have grown up In states with higher infant mortality rates.

Focusing on the medical records of white and black people born between 1919 and 1932, the study demonstrated that the rate of dementia among African-Americans born in a state with high infant mortality rates was higher By 40% compared to those living in states where infant mortality was relatively low.

For Paola Gilsanz, a researcher at the University of California who participated in this study, it shows that mental health should be considered “long term”:

The difficult living conditions that can be suffered being small partly explain the racial disparities that are observed in Alzheimer’s cases. “

For all these researchers, these concordant studies not only provide evidence that racial inequalities increase the risk of dementia but suggest an urgent need to act directly with the populations concerned.

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