African-Americans twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s; early diagnosis is key

Online Staff Report

While we take the time during Black History Month to reflect on the achievements of African-Americans, it is also an ideal time to consider the future health of the aging population. African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Advancing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s, and many of the affected dismiss the early warning signs as a normal result of aging. This is simply not true. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. There is no prevention, no treatment and no cure.

Early diagnosis is of vital importance when treating Alzheimer’s disease. Despite their increased chance of developing Alzheimer’s, research shows African-Americans are less likely to seek treatment for their symptoms. In fact, though they are twice as susceptible to the disease, African-Americans are only 38 percent more likely to have a diagnosis.

As February is also American Heart Month, it is important to note that African-Americans also have a higher instance of vascular diseases, a suspected risk factor of Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular diseases involve blood vessels and can result in heart attack and stroke.

If you or someone you care about is experiencing any signs or symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, make an appointment to see your doctor. Early diagnosis gives you a chance for the best treatment possible and being able to plan for the future. Visit for extensive information about Alzheimer’s disease as it relates to African-Americans.

The Alzheimer’s Association-Central Illinois Chapter offers a variety of services for those living with the disease and their caregivers. Call the Central Illinois Chapter’s toll-free, 24/7 helpline at (800) 272-3900, or stop in during business hours to discuss services, which include care consultations, information and referral, counseling, support groups, education programs, professional training and an extensive lending library.

Following are the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s:

1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life;

2. Challenges planning or solving problems;

3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks;

4. Confusion with time or place;

5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships;

6. New problems with words in speaking or writing;

7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps;

8. Decreased or poor judgment;

9. Withdrawal from work or social activities; and

10. Changes in mood and personality.

The Alzheimer’s Association — Central Illinois Chapter is a donor-supported, not-for-profit health organization serving 20 counties in Illinois. For additional information or for help, visit the website at or call (800) 272-3900.

Posted Feb. 27, 2013

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