By Frederick H. Lowe
WASHINGTON — The number of African Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia is expected grow nearly seven times in 16 years, but blacks can fight the deadly disease through a number of activities including engaging in regular physical exercise and intellectually stimulating pursuits.
Currently, 5.1 million Americans, including 1 million African Americans, suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, the most-widely known form of dementia. But by 2030, the number of blacks entering the age of risk for dementia will reach 6.9 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s report “African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease: The Silent Epidemic.”
The risk factor is age. More than 10 percent of persons over 65, and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s disease, which is characterized by loss of cognitive function —thinking, remembering and reasoning—and behavioral abilities, to an extent that interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.
Large-scale longitudinal studies indicate that individuals with histories of high-blood pressure and/ or high cholesterol, a disease and a disorder both common among blacks, are twice as likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
So what can African-American men and women do to fight Alzheimer’s Disease? The Alzheimer’s disease Fact Sheet encourages individuals to increase their physical activity, eat a healthy diet, engage in intellectually stimulating pursuits and participate in Alzheimer’s clinical trials so a cure is developed to address the unique needs of blacks.
Some of the findings were discussed at a symposium titled “Mental Health Practice and Aging: Recruitment and Retention Strategies of Ethnically Diverse Older Adults in Cognitive Aging Research.”
The symposium was held at the GSA 2014 Annual Scientific Meeting Nov. 5-9 in Washington, D.C.
Lowe attended the five-day conference as one of the journalists in the 2014 Aging Fellows Program, a collaboration of New America Media and The Gerontological Society of America, and sponsored by the Silver Century Foundation.