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Racial discrimination in midlife associated with Alzheimer’s disease

Washington, Apr 12 (Prensa Latina) A study conducted by Wake Forest University and the University of Georgia, United States, showed that racial discrimination experienced during middle age is being associated with Alzheimer's disease, as published by the Alzheimer's & Dementia journal.

According to Professor Michelle Mielke, co-author of the study, it is known that Black Americans have an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias compared to non-Hispanic whites, but all factors that contribute to this disproportionate risk are still unknown.

Mielke added that such racial disparities cannot be ascribed solely to genetic differences and that the research suggests that exposure to racism and associated stresses may increase the risk of dementia.

In this research, the team used 17 years of data that included interviews and blood draws from a sample of 255 African Americans who volunteered for the Family and Community Health Study, a longitudinal, multisite investigation that started off in 1996 and included over 800 families in the United States.

To measure racial discrimination, specialists surveyed people about discriminatory events they experienced such as being treated disrespectfully by store owners, salespeople, or police officers; racial slurs; being excluded from social activities; and not expecting to do well because they are a Black American.

While additional research is needed to better understand these processes, Mielke said it is clear that future inquiries should also focus on challenges and racism experienced by African Americans to better understand their risk for dementia.

“These findings provide evidence that the chronic stress of racial discrimination often faced by Black Americans in midlife is biologically rooted and contributes to Alzheimer’s disease pathology and neurodegeneration later in life,” Mielke added.