PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – New research revealed at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference has found that experiences of racism are associated with fewer cognitive issues in mid-life and older adults, especially among black and brown people.
“My mother was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s,” Kristin Henning said, “meaning she got sick very early in her 50s.”
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Henning saw her mother Rita go through a year-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, a steady decline from a once brilliant professor to someone who could barely speak. She says she began to see clear racial disparities behind her journey with the disease after applying for state aid.
“The most humiliating hurdle we really faced was the amount of time it took to find a Social Security investigator who would accept the medical record and the clear diagnosis that my mother had Alzheimer’s,” Henning said. . “The screeners essentially told us we were lying so we could benefit from state aid and it was absolutely horrifying, absolutely offensive, extremely painful.”
Henning is not alone in her story.
On Tuesday, researchers at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego revealed startling racial disparities in health equity and resources in Black and Brown communities as it relates to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
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In addition, according to the association, blacks are almost twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.
“We know that there are communities like Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino who are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s or dementia,” said Dr. Carl Hall, chief diversity officer for the Alzheimer’s Association.
Doctors attribute the lack of timely diagnosis along with genetic factors, lifestyle, exercise and diet.
They found that experiences of racism in Black and Brown communities were also associated with cognitive decline.
“Spanish-speaking, older Latinos are usually excluded from scientific research because they do not speak English,” said Dr. Adriana Perez, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.
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The studies included more than 1,400 Asian, black, Latino and white people. The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to the care, support, and research of Alzheimer’s.