TUESDAY, August 2, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely than others to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and new research suggests racism is a contributing factor.
Experiences of structural, interpersonal and institutional racism are linked to lower memory scores and poorer mental functioning in midlife and old age in black people, according to studies reported this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
“To achieve health equity — as a step toward full inclusion — individuals and society must recognize and reduce racism and other forms of discrimination,” said Carl Hill, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at the Alzheimer’s Association.
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“We must create a society where the underserved, disproportionately affected and underrepresented are safe, cared for and valued,” Hill said in a press release from the association.
The 2022 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report found that blacks are about twice as likely, and Hispanics about one-and-a-half times as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias, as whites or Asians.
Components of structural racism that affect brain health include lower income, lower quality early childhood education, and lower access to healthy nutrition and adequate health care.
Individually and cumulatively, these factors impact brain health throughout life, the study authors said.
“These systemic inequalities are related to reduced access to key health protection resources, such as B. quality care and social networks that provide valuable health information and support,” said Dr. Miriam Burnett, Medical Director of the International Health Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The conference was held in San Diego and virtually. Results presented at medical congresses should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
In a study of nearly 1,000 middle-aged adults, exposure to interpersonal and institutional racism was associated with lower memory scores.
Another team of researchers found that those who experienced widespread discrimination throughout their lives had lower semantic memory later in life than those who experienced little to no discrimination. This study enrolled 445 Asian, Black, Hispanic, White and mixed-race people aged 90 and older.
“Chronic exposure to racism and interpersonal discrimination in marginalized communities leads to stress, which affects the body and affects physiological health and likely contributes to the development of cognitive decline,” said Jennifer Manly, professor of neuropsychology at Columbia’s Irving Medical Center University, in New York City and co-author of another study.
The US National Institute on Aging has more on Alzheimer’s disease.
SOURCE: Alzheimer’s Association, press release, August 1, 2022