Factors Associated with Alzheimer’s Disease Vary by Race, Study Says

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Alzheimer’s Disease A new study published in the journal Neurology reveals new findings that suggest that the changes and pathologies that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease can vary depending on race, suggesting one treatment does not fit all cases.

Led by Dr. Lisa L. Barnes from the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, researchers compared the neurological disorder in white European-Americans and African-Americans. A significant contrast was discovered.

The study involved 122 participants, including 41 African-Americans and 81 European-Americans. Researchers ensured African-American individuals were matched at a two-to-one ratio with European-Americans for disease severity. They also ensured factors like age, sex, and education were matched between groups.

The study looked for plaques, tangles, and other brain changes that could signal dementia, such as infarcts (changes caused by stroke) and Lewy bodies (a sign of Lewy body or Parkinson’s disease).

Based on these factors, “pure” Alzheimer’s disease (meaning no other pathologies are contributing to the disease) was common among European-Americans at a 42% rate; in the African-American participants, it was just 19.5%. African-Americans, however, were more likely to have Alzheimer’s in which another pathology was a contributing factor. Seventy-one percent of African-Americans were found to have Alzheimer’s disease combined with another type of pathology, compared to 51% of European-Americans.

Dr. Barnes concludes that based on the research, there is a need to increase awareness in the African-American community of the opportunities to participate in studies and research to allow the medical community to better understand, treat, and potentially prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is a neurological disorder that affects the brain, destroying cells and affecting cognitive ability. The plaques symptomatic of the disease occur between dying cells and are a result of a buildup of beta-amyloid proteins. Tangles occur in brain neurons and are a result of the decay of tau, another protein.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Source for Today’s Article:
Lam, P., “Should Alzheimer’s treatments be tailored to race?” Medical News Today web site, July 16, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/296680.php.