Why are African Americans at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Research shows that older African Americans develop Alzheimer’s at a rate higher than any other group, and nearly double that of non-Hispanic Whites. Chronic medical issues such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, hypertension and high cholesterol are known to be more prevalent in African Americans and believed to play a role in the Alzheimer’s disparity. Researchers also cite higher rates of poverty and propose that the associated consequences of stress, inadequate nutrition and limited access to quality health care also contribute to this disparity.

A leading researcher in this area is Goldie Byrd, PhD, Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s, Aging and Community Health (COAACH) Founding Director and Professor of at North Carolina A & T State University.  She won a multi-million dollar grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities to establish genetics research capacity.  Her work investigates genetic factors among African Americans to understand more fully their correlation to Alzheimer’s disease. While she is not alone in the desire to understand, she has been far more successful than most in recruiting African American participants for trial studies. Opened in 2014, COAACH is viewed as ground zero for innovative, cross-disciplinary and community-based responses to Alzheimer’s.

Margaret Pericak-Vance, PhD, Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics and internationally recognized for her role in Alzheimer’s research, used Byrd’s outreach model to launch the Research in African American Alzheimer’s Disease Initiative at the University of Miami. The 15-year collaboration of these two researchers has also produced the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project, where several schools — North Carolina A&T, the University of Miami, Columbia University and Case Western Reserve University — are working together to recruit 100 black families with two or more members affected by Alzheimer’s to map genetic elements of the disease.

Research matters, progress is underway. The more we know, the more we hold hope for real solutions. Read the full Washington Post article HERE.

To view all previous blogs, click here.

Scroll to Top