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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease and African Americans

Today, medical researchers are investigating why it is that the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is higher in blacks than whites. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society reports the following statistics on Alzheimer's Disease:

Incidence per 100 people at 80 years old:



Black, males


Black, females


What you can do

Get properly diagnosed

There are a number of reversible conditions that may appear to be dementia and/or the beginning stages of Alzheimer's but are not. These conditions include:


Don't assume that memory loss and confusion are natural parts of aging. They're not.

Change your lifestyle

You can change your lifestyle and possibly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer's diseases, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Making small lifestyle changes can delay onset of Alzheimer's disease, by reducing the risk of other conditions that contribute to the development of Alzheimer's including diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Recommendations include:

Join a study

One way to help researchers determine why memory loss is greater among African Americans is to join a medical study. At this time, it is not clear why a greater number of African Americans suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. If we find out why, we may be able to direct improved therapies to reduce the impact of the disease.

Each study is different and involves different levels of participation. Studies may compare different ethnicities. Some studies are on the internet, where others require a patient to be examined. Hands on involvement can range from taking a memory test to brain scans and other genetic testing. What each study has in common is that it adds to what is known about Alzheimer's disease so that it can be prevented and eventually cured.

It is well-known that a serious obstacle in recruiting African Americans to participate in medical studies is distrust of the medical establishment. It is fueled by past abuses like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, in which the government studied the effects of untreated syphilis on black men. Today medical studies are tightly regulated. Protocols must be closely followed that protect all study participants' privacy and safety.

This article was originally authored by , formerly of Case Western Reserve University, and published on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Oct 20, 2010

Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology
Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University