AUSTIN (KXAN) — New research from the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin is exploring why Hispanic adults are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their white peers.
Per the research, Hispanic adults are approximately 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than their white counterparts. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease that impacts memory and thinking skills.
Despite Hispanics being 1.5 times more likely to develop the condition, the Alzheimer’s Association reports Hispanic adults are only 18% more likely to be diagnosed, denoting discrepancies in diagnoses versus adults experiencing the degenerative disease.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of effort to recruit ethnic minority groups – especially Hispanics – into Alzheimer’s studies, so we are hoping to get to the root causes of these health disparities through this targeted research,” said clinical neuropsychologist Robin Hilsabeck, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Neurology at Dell Med and director of the Comprehensive Memory Center within the Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences.
The Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium incorporated Hilsabeck’s research into their study, which “will explore the development of Alzheimer’s from a neurological perspective,” per a Dell Med release. The study will incorporate memory testing and brain scans conducted during yearly visits with participants.
The study is working to incorporate Hispanic adults over the age of 50 who’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the study, as well as those diagnosed with dementia or other memory problems. Prospective participants from other racial and ethnic backgrounds with similar cognitive conditions will also be considered, per the release.
According to Hilsabeck, it’s undetermined why there are unequal rates of Alzheimer’s diagnoses between racial and ethnic groups. However, research has shown correlations between heart and blood vessel issues with Alzheimer’s diagnoses.
Hispanic and African Americans statistically are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular health problems than their white peers, per the release, which could make them more prone to developing Alzheimer’s.
Hilsabeck added cultural and financial issues can also play into disparities, including lack of access to insurance, underinsurance levels among minority community members and lack of trust in doctors.
“Early diagnosis makes all the difference in outcomes – it can literally change how the disease develops,” Hilsabeck said.
Early-stage interventions, including exercise and social programs, can help slow the disease’s progression.
Those interested in participating in the study should contact Bertha Ortiz at 512-495-5871.