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Alzheimer’s Insight: African-Americans may be at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s

February is Black History Month – and among the many great achievements to celebrate are those of Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller.

Dr. Fuller lived from 1872 – 1953 and performed ground-breaking research on the physical changes that take place in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.   Dr. Fuller studied under Alois Alzheimer, the man for whom the disease is named.  In 1919 Dr. Fuller became part of the faculty at Boston University School of Medicine, where he stayed until 1933.  From then until his death, he held a private practice as a physician, neurologist, and psychiatrist.

Fast forward to today.  Did you know African-Americans may be at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease than Caucasian Americans?   In fact, they are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s as whites.  Alzheimer’s is the 4th leading cause of death among older African-Americans.

Why?

 First, African-Americans have a higher risk of diabetes compared to Caucasian Americans.  Diabetes is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

 Second, high blood pressure is more common among African-Americans, and a person with high blood pressure or high cholesterol may be more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Third, African-Americans may have a higher rate of vascular dementia compared to Caucasian Americans.

The question now is, what can be done?  There are two major steps you can take, not only toward better brain health but toward overall body health.

 

1)   Be heart-smart – watch your numbers

  • Blood pressure     Desirable blood pressure is less than 120/80
  • Blood sugar          Desirable fasting blood sugar is less than 100 mg/dL
  • Bodyweight         Keep your body weight in the recommended range
  • Cholesterol           Desirable cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL

 2)   Make brain-healthy lifestyle choices

  •  Stay mentally active
  • Remain socially involved
  • Stay physically active
  • Adopt a brain-healthy diet

        

Memory loss that disrupts everyday life is not normal aging. It may be a symptom of dementia. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. If you’re having major memory problems, see a doctor to find the cause. Early diagnosis increases your opportunity to receive treatments and make decisions about the future.

If you have a question about Alzheimer’s disease, you can always call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 for more information. 

 

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s®. For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

 

Scott Finley is Media Relations Manager for the Alzheimer’s Association® in Texas.  He can be reached at scfinley@alz.org