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2021 Alzheimer's Association Research Fellowship (AARF)

Cognitive decline and dementia Risk in older African Americans

What factors may impact cognitive decline and the risk of developing dementia in older blacks/African Americans?

DeAnnah Byrd, Ph.D.
Wayne State University
Detroit, MI - United States


According to the 2021 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, older Blacks/African Americans are twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementia than older whites. Additionally, according to the report, it is more likely for health care providers to miss diagnoses in Blacks/African Americans, than whites. However, the factors that may impact cognitive decline in Blacks/African Americans are not yet well understood.

Research Plan

Dr. DeAnnah Byrd and colleagues will leverage datasets from the Baltimore Study of Black Aging project. The Baltimore Study of Black Aging is a long-term study of older Blacks/African Americans and includes information on cognition, health and other factors including depression and social support. Using these datasets, Dr. Byrd will study the association between high blood pressure and cognitive decline as well as investigate how social support and stress may impact this association. 

Individuals with Alzheimer’s have increased levels of brain inflammation. Therefore, the researchers will study the interplay between brain inflammation and cognitive decline and how this may be associated with the potential links between high blood pressure and cognition. Additionally, Dr. Byrd’s team will study the potential associations between perceived stress, high blood pressure and cognitive decline.


The results may provide insights into what factors could impact cognitive decline in older Blacks/African Americans. If successful, the findings may also help other researchers in the Alzheimer’s and dementia science to address cognitive disparities and may prevent the risk of development of Alzheimer’s and dementia in underserved populations.

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