LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia.
Researchers say Hispanic Americans are at a higher risk of developing the devastating disease.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the U.S., and about 13% of them over 65 have some form of dementia. The Michigan Alzheimer’s Association says more people aren’t aware of the disease until it’s too late.
“Most people in the Latino community don’t know they are at a higher risk,” says Dr. Irving Vega, a translational neuroscientist at Michigan State University.
He spends his days researching answers to the striking disparity. Hispanics have a 50% differential in the possibility of developing dementia.
“Actually, and to break the myth, that there is a genetic component, specific to Latinos vs. Black vs. white,” Vega says of his study focus.
Vega and the Michigan Alzheimer’s Association believe that rather than a genetic link to this disparity, environmental and social stresses play a more significant role in the development of dementia. That’s called Social Determinants of Health and highlights the numerous barriers many minorities face in healthcare.
Some of those include access to healthy food, stable and safe housing, culturally component medical care – and even access to basic primary care – and where someone lives can serve as obstacles to healthcare and health access. Many of these constraints can come together and influence a more rapid cognitive decline.
“Being able to visit with a medical professional that speaks your language can also provide additional barriers to the ones that already exist,” says Ana Ramos, manager for Latino outreach, as an example of a social determinant of health.
Dr. Vega points to another.
“That could be a cultural understanding of the system coming from a different country to discrimination,” he says.
The Alzheimer’s Association of Michigan says 1 in 5 Latinos believe discrimination is a barrier to receiving care, including an early diagnosis of dementia.
To address this, the agency has launched a campaign called “Some things come with age.” The goal is to increase awareness in the Latino community about the prevalence of dementia.
Vega says the goal is “to bring information regarding Alzheimer’s disease, what are the risk factors and, importantly, what you can do to reduce that risk.”
Experts say if you or someone you know is at a heightened risk for any form of dementia and is around the age of 60, visiting 10signs.org is a good first step in getting more information about Alzheimer’s, symptoms and early detection.
- Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States. By 2050, the number of Hispanic elders with Alzheimer’s and other dementias could increase more than six-fold, from nearly 200,000 today to as many as 1.3 million.
- Hispanics/Latinos are about 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than older white Americans.
- Despite their increased risk, Hispanics are underrepresented in clinical trials. Without appropriate participation by Hispanic Americans and other underrepresented groups in Alzheimer’s clinical trials and research, it is impossible to get a complete understanding of how racial and ethnic differences may affect the efficacy and safety of potential new treatments.
- Hispanics/Latinos may be more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, when individuals are more cognitively and physically impaired – and therefore, are in need of more medical care.
- One third of Hispanic Americans have experienced health care discrimination, and nearly 1 in 5 (18%) believe discrimination is a barrier to receiving care for Alzheimer’s disease.
- We are seeking Spanish-language volunteers in the Lansing area and looking to engage with community groups in the area to understand how we can serve the community even better.
The Alzheimer’s Association and the Ad Council recently teamed up on a new PSA campaign aimed at increasing early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic/Latino Community.
The campaign titled “Some Things Come with Age,” seeks to increase awareness of early warning signs of Alzheimer’s that are often mistaken for normal aging.
The campaign’s website 10signs.org in English and 10señales.org in Spanish, offers tools and resources to help families recognize early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, tips for facilitating conversations about cognition, benefits of early detection and diagnosis, a discussion guide for use with doctors and health providers, and other disease-related information.