Study: Alzheimer's Disease Impact to Minorities - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

From Robert Bazell - NBC News

Study: Alzheimer's Disease Impact to Minorities

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Each year we are learning more about the insidious nature of Alzheimer's Disease and how it robs people of their memories and their lives. But now comes a surprise, it involves who is  getting it... and why.

For eight years Joan Rodriquez put her life on hold to care for her mother Alicia, who immigrated from Mexico and recently died of Alzheimer's.  Joan says "I remember her joy for dancing, her joy for living. She used to love her Spanish music and dance to it."

Alzheimer's is a major medical mystery and many experts are now concerned about an increase Alzheimer's among Latinos -- and other minorities .

Dr. Maria Carillo from the Alzheimer's Association says "Alzheimer's is definitely a special problem in the hispanic community, but overall it is an epidemic in the United States and actually all over the world

"The biggest study of Alzheimer's in different ethic groups comes from the very diverse Washington Heights neighborhood of New York. The study found that both Hispanics and African Americans had about the twice the rates as whites."

Dr. Richard Mayeux of Columbia University Medical Center who headed the study says the big mystery is whether it is genetics -- or factors related to poverty such as diabetes and obesity which contribute to Alzheimer's risk.

Dr. Mayeux says "My best scientific evidence is that it is a genetic risk and that we're seeing

different genes causing uhh increased risk in these different populations."

Experts know that more educated people tend to be diagnosed less often. Joan Rodriquez says her mother's case was especially sad because she had always wanted more to study more.

"She was very bright and in Mexico where she was born she actually skipped two grades."

A dream -- like so many -- stolen by this terrible affliction.