CHICAGO/WASHINGTON, D.C.Alzheimers disease and related dementias are projected to increase more than sixfold among Hispanics in the U.S. during the first half of the 21st century, according to a new report released by the Alzheimers Association. This increase means that 1.3 million Hispanics will have Alzheimers disease by 2050, compared with fewer than 200,000 currently living with the disease.
This report should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and the nation, said Stephen McConnell, Ph.D., senior vice president of public policy for the Alzheimers Association. As the fastest-growing population in the country and the group that will have the greatest life expectancy of all ethnic groups, Hispanics will experience a dramatic rise in their risk of Alzheimers disease. This will overwhelm their families and communities unless we take action now.
The report, titled Alzheimers Disease Among the Hispanic Population, brought swift reaction from major Hispanic groups and leaders.
The Congress and the administration must quickly approve the Alzheimers Associations request for an additional $40 million for Alzheimer research, said Hector Flores, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which includes 600 councils and 115,000 members nationwide. This is our best hope for developing new medicines to help those with the disease and to ultimately find a cure.
Raul Yzaguirre, president of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which serves 5 million people and has 310 affiliates nationwide, said: We cannot sit back and do nothing when we know that the Hispanic community will face a devastating blow from Alzheimers disease in the years ahead. We must work for more funding, raise awareness among Hispanics about the disease, and inform them about the resources available to help people with Alzheimers and their families.
Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said: As a son caring for a mother with Alzheimers, I understand firsthand the strain it can be on families because it not only affects families lives, jobs and finances, but also their mental and physical well-being. Congress must give Alzheimers disease its full attention, and develop a national strategy for fighting it. Unless we invest in Alzheimers research now, the disease will become a bigger and bigger drain on a health care system that is already at the breaking point.
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force, said: Alzheimers threatens the future of Hispanics all across the nation. I urge the Hispanic community to come together to join the fight against this disease and preserve the well-being of our families.
Both LULAC and La Raza are members of the Associations Coalition of Hope, the largest Coalition ever formed to promote awareness of Alzheimers disease and support for research. The Coalition has a membership of more than 200 organizations representing more than 50 million Americans.
The report was prepared by the Alzheimers Association and cites a number of published studies of Alzheimers disease and Census figures. It warns that dementia is a looming but unrecognized public health crisis in Hispanic Latino communities in the United States.
Dr. Rafael Lantigua, director of the Columbia University Center for Active Life of Minority Elders, said that in research and practice, our analysis of known or suspected risk factors for Alzheimers shows that Hispanics may be at greater risk for the disease in the years ahead.
Key findings from the report
The life expectancy of Hispanics will increase to age 87 by 2050, surpassing all other ethnic groups in the United States. Age is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimers disease. By the middle of the century, Hispanics will increase as a proportion of the total elderly population from 5 percent today to 16 percent.
Hispanics have high rates of vascular disease, which puts them at greater risk for developing Alzheimers. A growing body of evidence indicates that vascular disease risk factorsincluding diabetesmay also be risk factors for Alzheimers disease and stroke-related dementia. To exacerbate the situation, Hispanics are low users of medical services, and have less health insurance than non-Hispanics, making it less likely they will receive the medical services needed to monitor and control the conditions that may lead to Alzheimers.
Hispanics have the lowest education levels of any group. Research shows education may have some protective effects against Alzheimers. One in 10 Hispanic elders has no formal education. More than half have eight years of schooling or fewer.
Impact on families
The report also emphasizes the burden Alzheimers places on families and communities. As a result of the strong cultural value of family responsibility in the Hispanic community, family membersparticularly daughters and other femalescare for relatives with Alzheimers for longer periods of time. And as compared with caregivers in other communities, Hispanic caregivers take care of relatives with higher levels of impairment.
Alzheimers Association issues call to action
The Alzheimers Association is doing its part to meet the needs of Hispanics. Its Contact Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with Spanish-speaking information specialists and professional care consultants. The Center is accessible by calling 1-800-272-3900 toll-free, or by visiting the Associations Web site at www.alz.org and directs those inquiring to the Associations nationwide network of 81 local chapters.
The Association is releasing the report as part of its national campaign to change the way Americans think about Alzheimers. As part of this effort, the Association is asking Americans to Maintain Your Brainlearn more about what is known about Alzheimers disease; understand what Americas medical research community has accomplished; and join the Association in advocating for a renewed commitment to research and improved care for those with Alzheimers disease.
The report also calls for:
Additional research on Alzheimers disease in ethnic and cultural minorities, including increased participation by Hispanics in clinical trials.
Culturally and linguistically sensitive education and outreach aimed at risk reduction, early diagnosis and treatment.
$40 million in additional federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support under-funded areas of research that can accelerate the discovery of a cure or prevention. This appropriation, added to the $679 million now allocated to the NIH for Alzheimer research, would be an important step toward the Associations ultimate goal of $1 billion in annual NIH research funding to end the disease.
To read the complete report, visit the Associations Web site at www.alz.org. Information about the Maintain Your Brain campaign and the Coalition of Hope is also available on the Web site.
From the Dec. 28, 2005-Jan. 3, 2006, issue