New York Times Article Warns of Alzheimer's Risk for Hispanics
The Alzheimer's Association reports that 200,000 Latinos who live in the United States currently have Alzheimer's disease. By 2050, the projected total for this demographic group could reach 1.3 million. An October 21 New York Times article, "More Alzheimer's Risk for Hispanics, Studies Suggest" by Pam Belluck, explores the reasons behind this projection, as well as the cultural issues that will impact diagnosis and caregiving.
Belluck reports, "Studies suggest that many Hispanics may have more risk factors for developing dementia than other groups, and a significant number appear to be getting Alzheimer's earlier. Surveys indicate that Latinos, less likely to see doctors because of financial and language barriers, more often mistake dementia symptoms for normal aging, delaying diagnosis."
Some researchers also have found that Hispanics may show signs of the disease at an earlier age. The New York Times article reported, "Dr. Christopher M. Clark, director of the Center of Excellence for Research on Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania, studied the age at which 174 Alzheimer's patients in California, New York and Pennsylvania first showed symptoms and found Spanish speakers were on average 6.8 years younger (about 67) than non-Hispanic whites, regardless of whether they were Mexican, Caribbean or South American. That Latinos are on average younger than other Americans accounted for a small part of the gap, but not most of it, Dr. Clark said."
Experts believe that factors such as high rates of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and strokes may be the reason that Hispanics are at greater risk. In addition, stress from financial hardships and cultural adjustment, as well as having limited education, also may be risk factors for some Hispanic immigrants, and may result in some of the previously mentioned health issues.
Belluck also explores briefly the lack of awareness of Alzheimer's and its progression among the Hispanic population as well as the decision by many families to live have multiple generations living together (instead of placing the loved one with Alzheimer's in a nursing home). Experts note that while the additional support can benefit the loved one, it also can create additional stress for the family.
Belluck's article is important for several reasons. First of all, an awareness campaign is really needed to educate Latinos whose primary language is English about Alzheimer's. Secondly, the Times article hopefully will prompt additional research in this area. And finally, policymakers need to understand the nuances of the impact of Alzheimer's disease among various groups so they can make informed decisions about health-care policies that will have a far-ranging impact on the United States.