Alzheimer’s disease has become a national crisis. The federal government has expanded federal funding to support clinical trials and research into the causes and treatments, as well as the psychosocial impact that the disease can cause to individuals and their families. More than five million people have the disease; it is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. Everyone is aging and if asked, you would probably know someone who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans is 64 percent higher than in whites. It is also the 4th leading cause of death among African Americans. This could be attributed to the fact that African Americans are more likely to have the presence of risk factors often associated with increased vulnerability to the disease. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The impact of these factors is hard to decipher because historically, equal access to health care and persistent mistreatment and discrimination, as well as lack of awareness among the African American community has compounded the effect.
In addition, memory decline is a gradual process, so many may not even realize its impact until it is too late. This often leads to underreporting of cases, leading to diagnosis at a later stage, when treatment is less effective. African Americans are more likely than whites to be uninsured (21 percent versus 13 percent, respectively). Often African Americans report feeling mistreated in healthcare settings and thus, do not report when they first start to see memory problems among their loved ones. Is this a lack of awareness or is something else going on?