Alzheimer's disease rates climbing among black and latino women

Alzheimer's disease rates climbing among black and latino women (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A dangerous trend is on the rise in the African-American community when it comes to women and memory loss.

"I was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's last October." J.C. Robinson is a passionate volunteer with a new urgency to share the message of the Walk to End Alzheimer's Disease.

"We are promoting the first survivor, that's what we want to see." Jill Gorley with the Alzheimer's Association says we aren't there yet, "every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with this disease."

There is one group that is rapidly growing in that population. "We know that Latinos and African-Americans are at greater risk." However, many don't know it.

While the team at the Alzheimer's Association has been focused in raising awareness in all populations and continues to fund new research, researchers are trying to find out a little bit more about how much of that greater risk is lifestyle-related, and how much of that is actually genetic.

Dr. Rhonna Shatz and Trudy Gaillard are part of a memory research team who say cultural barriers may be getting in the way of preventing Alzheimer's in this population. "I think black women in particular are very strong women and we value our independence, so when there is a health condition or something like memory loss, or has a stigma of taking things away from us, it's frightening."

While J.C. is brave enough to talk about what she noticed before diagnosis like forgetting her destination while driving, others are not. "They kind of associate memory loss with a stigma, so they have developed a lot of skills and techniques to really hide that."

So while lifestyle concerns such as obesity and diabetes are likely contributing

to a brain body connection, which causes inflammation in the body, "we do know there are genes that we are identifying now, that differentiate between African-American and Caucasian."

The real danger may be that many are simply not aware this is a problem of urgency. "I feel a lot of the community, especially women, do not understand the signs and symptoms, as well as the risk factors."

J. C. is concerned about that too. She hopes by giving this disease a face and a positive voice, "I push that back as much as i can and try to be grateful for as much as I can, what I can still do, and there's a lot I can still do."

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