Latinos may have earlier age of onset for Alzheimer’s
U.S. Latinos with Alzheimer’s develop their first symptoms of the disease, on average, at a significantly younger age than Anglos (white non-Latinos), according to a report in the May Archives of Neurology.
Researchers documented the earlier age of onset in a two-part study at five federally funded Alzheimer’s Disease Centers with experience evaluating Spanish speakers. The first part of the study analyzed age-of-onset data from a large database. In the second part, investigators evaluated Latino and Anglo individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and then conducted a standardized interview with a family member to estimate when symptoms first appeared. The second phase of the study found that Latinos, on average, developed their first symptoms nearly seven years earlier than Anglos.
“These findings clearly point to the need for extensive, systematic epidemiological studies targeting the U.S. Latino population, our largest and fastest growing minority group, says Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association director, medical and scientific affairs. “The data also suggest that Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the country need to commit time and resources to meet the needs of this population, a huge undertaking but clearly required based on the projected numbers.”
The study did not uncover reasons for the difference in age of onset. According to the authors, one possible explanation is that Latinos were more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, both conditions associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Another possibility is that the stress involved in moving to a new country and living as an ethnic immigrant may make non-memory symptoms associated with the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s, such as anxiety and depression, more noticeable in Latinos.
The researchers point out one caution about the data: participants in the second-phase, direct evaluation part of the study represent a “convenience sample” of individuals who happened to consult a specialty clinic and not a group scientifically selected to be representative of the entire U.S. population.
Prior to publication, preliminary results of this study were reported at the Alzheimer’s Association 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders.
For more information, please see:
The Alzheimer’s Association press release on the 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders presentation
Alzheimer’s Association Hispanic Resource Portal, a gateway page to a wide variety of culturally appropriate resources in Spanish.