For reasons not completely understood, African-Americans are almost twice as likely as Caucasians to have Alzheimer's disease, and they often develop the disease at earlier ages.
This increased risk is likely related to the greater prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure in the African-American population. If left untreated, these problems can damage the brain.
Alzheimer's disease has become a national epidemic, currently affecting 5.3 million people. As the country's population ages, the number of people affected will continue to increase. The greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's is age; about half of all people 85 and older are affected.
Because Alzheimer's influences behavior and thinking, stigma is often attached to a diagnosis, and families may be too embarrassed to seek help.
Research suggests that nationwide, compared to Caucasians, African-Americans often wait longer to seek help for problems with memory, or may not seek medical help at all.
Delaying medical attention prevents patients from receiving treatment when it can do the most good. Available medications can help slow the progress of the disease, but they work best when taken early.
The nationally recognized Alzheimer's Disease Center at the University of Kentucky provides individuals with diagnosis, education and opportunities for research participation. The center has been funded for more than 25 years by the National Institute on Aging. It includes some of the best clinicians and researchers in the world. Researchers are actively working to prevent Alzheimer's and to develop better medications.
The African American Dementia Outreach Partnership was created in 2003 to encourage people to seek help with Alzheimer's. The partnership includes Alzheimer's Disease Center, the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, the Greater Kentucky and Southern Indiana Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a council of five African American churches.
By recognizing that change in dementia care required outreach and education, a memory care clinic was located on the north side of Lexington at the UK HealthCare Polk-Dalton Clinic.
If a church or community group would like a speaker on topics related to healthy brain aging or signs of dementia, please call (859) 257-8971.