African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease

The National Alzheimer’s Association has called Alzheimer’s Disease a “silent epidemic” among African-Americans. Age is a key risk for Alzheimer’s disease among all racial and ethnic groups. Over 10% of all persons over the age of 65, and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s Disease. The number of African Americans 65 and over will more than double from 2.7 million in 1995 to 6.9 million by the year 2030. The statistics for African-Americans 85 years and older are growing as well.

Part of the epidemic related to AD is the reluctance of African-Americans to participate in clinical trials. It is these trials that result in new treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease. Participation is vitally needed in these trials. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with AD, please contact the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center at 1-800-438-4380 or http://www.alzheimers.org/trials for more information about participation. The telephone number listed also provides general information and publications for patients and their families or caregivers on the topic of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Vascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and Diabetes are other risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Results from a large-scale study have shown that individuals with a history of either high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. Those with both risk factors are four times as likely to have the disease.

Alzheimer’s Disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. There are at least four million adults affected by this disease according to statistics. Even though this disease mostly affects people after the age of 65, it can also affect people in there 40’s or 50’s. This is often diagnosed as early onset Alzheimer’s Disease. AD is a terminal illness at this time. There are several drugs available to slow the progression of the disease, but the average life expectancy from the time of diagnosis is eight years. Early intervention is key to prolonging the devastating memory impairment and cognitive functioning that is the hallmark of this disease process.

Do you know the warning signs for Alzheimer’s Disease?

1. Recent memory loss that affects your job skills

It’s normal to forget an occasional deadline when you have many pressing demands. Forgetting a long-time co-worker’s name or experiencing unexplained confusion at your work place may signal a problem.

2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks

While preparing a meal, you may become distracted and forget that you have something cooking on the stove. A problem may be indicated when you forget that you were preparing a meal at all.

3. Problems with language

Everyone has times when they can’t express a thought or come up with a word they wish to convey. Difficulty coming up with simple words or substituting words that don’t make sense to others indicates that there may be issues to look at.

4. Disorientation of time and place

It is normal to forget the date or day of the week, but people with Alzheimer’s Disease may forget where they going or exactly where they live at.

5. Poor judgment

Choosing not to bring a coat or jacket along when the weather cools down is normal, but the Alzheimer affected individual may begin to layer clothing even in the warmest weather. They may become reckless with spending habits.

6. Problems with abstract thinking

Numbers are a form of abstract thinking and many of us have difficulty balancing a checkbook. A person who is suffering the affects of AD, however, will forget the meaning behind the numbers in a checkbook. They may begin to have trouble with even the most basic of calculations.

7. Misplacing things

Misplacing the car keys is a common experience for many people, but putting the keys in an odd place such as the freezer us a reason to become concerned.

8. Changes in mood or behavior

Experiencing and expressing a broad range of emotions is part of being human. The person who is affected by AD, however, may exhibit rapid mood swings for no apparent reason.

9. Changes in Personality

An individual with Alzheimer’s Disease may suddenly become suspicious, fearful, or angry when they have an easygoing type of personality.

10. Loss of initiative

It is normal for interests in social activities and interests to come and go. When an individual becomes disinterested and uninvolved with usual interests and people with whom they usually associate with, there may be a problem indicated.

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