This essay will explore Alzheimer’s disease and its origin, the prevalence of the disease in African American culture, and the affects it has on patients and their families. Alzheimer’s disease affects millions of people each year and as of yet there is no known cure. This essay will provide understanding of the risk factors as well as statistics on the percentage of affected African Americans versus other cultures. Progressive mental deterioration in old age has been recognized and described throughout history. However, it was not until 1906 that a German physician Alois Alzheimer, specifically identified a collection of brain cell abnormalities as a disease.
One of Dr. Alzheimer’s patients died after years of severe memory problems, confusion and difficulty understanding questions. Upon her death, while performing a brain autopsy, the doctor noted dense deposits of surrounding the nerve cells (neuritic plaques). Inside the nerve cells he discovered twisted bands of fibers (neurofibrillary tangles). Today this degenerative brain disorder bears his name, and when found during an autopsy these plaques and tangles mean a definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
(brightfocus. org) Since its discovery more than 100 years ago, there have been many scientific breakthroughs in Alzheimer’s disease research. In the 1960s, scientists discovered a link between cognitive decline and the number of plaques and tangles in the brain. The medical community then formally recognized Alzheimer’s as a disease and not a normal part of aging. In the 1970s, scientists made great strides in understanding the human body as a whole, and Alzheimer’s disease emerged as a significant area of research interest.
This increased attention led in the 1990s to important discoveries and a better understanding of complex nerve cells in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. More research was done on Alzheimer’s disease susceptibility genes, and several drugs were approved to treat the cognitive symptoms of the disease. (brightfocus. org)
Over the last decade, scientists have substantially progressed in understanding potential environmental genetic and other risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease, the processes leading to formation of plaques and tangles in the brain, and the brain regions that are affected. Specific genes related to both the early onset and late onset forms of Alzheimer’s disease have been identified, but genetic risk factors alone do not fully explain its causes, so researchers are actively exploring environment and lifestyle to learn what role they might play in the development of this disease.
More effective treatment options have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, Alzheimer’s disease is still incurable. The drugs currently in use treat only the symptoms, not the cause of the disorder, and they only slow the progression of cognitive decline. (brightfocus. org).
African Americans are at significantly increased risk for the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), yet are seriously underrepresented in research trials. Preliminary experiences on a large scale, multi-site, 5-year longitudinal trial investigating the psychometric expression and progression of AD targeting an aging Southern rural cohort of African Americans are reported. Sixty-five participants, ranging from asymptomatic to severely demented, underwent extensive individual diagnostic and psychometric evaluation. Results indicated that cultural factors strongly influenced the data.
Recruitment with asymptomatic volunteers were found 2 Alzheimer’s Disease in the African American Culture to have greater educational attainment than other participant groups. Psychomotor measures showed greater impairment in African Americans compared to Caucasians suggesting increased cerebrovascular burden. African Americans’ performance on the Boston Naming Test and the Wechsler Test of Adult Reading tests were significantly different than performance of Caucasian groups. The findings demonstrated that a better understanding of sociocultural factors associated with.
AD in the African American population may facilitate the development of primary and secondary preventions, especially when considering the role of cerebrovascular comorbidity which is a modifiable risk factor. (ncbi. nlm. gov) The African American culture is hard hit by Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent among African-Americans than among whites with estimates ranging from 14% to almost 100% higher. There is a greater familial risk of Alzheimer’s in African-Americans and Genetic and environmental factors may work differently to cause Alzheimer’s disease in African-Americans.
Age-specific prevalence of dementia has been found to be 14% to 100% higher in African-Americans. (While the rates vary among studies, three out of four report these higher prevalence rates. ) Age is a key risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease in all racial and ethnic groups. Over 10% of all persons over 65, and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer’s disease. The number of African-Americans age 65 and over will more than double by 2030, from 2. 7 million in 1995 to 6. 9 million by 2030. (alz. org).
The number of African-Americans age 85 and over is growing almost as rapidly, from 277,000 in 1995 to 638,000 in 2030 and will increase more than five-fold between 1995 and 2050, when it will reach 1. 6 million. African-Americans who are evaluated have a much higher rate of false-positive results. At the same time, there is substantial evidence of underreporting of dementia among African-Americans. African-Americans tend to be diagnosed at a later stage of Alzheimer’s disease limiting the effectiveness of treatments that depend upon early intervention.
African-Americans are seriously underrepresented in current clinical trials of potential treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, particularly in trials conducted by drug companies. This has occurred even though evidence of genetic differences and response to drugs varies significantly by race and ethnicity. (alz. org) The informational sources used to compile this essay all have one common denominator: the African American culture is one of the hardest hit by Alzheimer’s disease versus other cultures.
Although there is significant reported decreases in dementia in the African American culture, Alzheimer’s disease remains a threat. The number of African Americans affected by Alzheimer’s disease will only increase as time moves forward. In conclusion as previously mentioned African Americans are underrepresented in current clinical trials and the reason for is may be there have not been any African Americans who are willing to volunteer. Before any treatment can be used in a clinical setting it must be tested to ensure it is safe to be used on patients. Therefore, volunteering for the clinical trial research is the only way to move forward with discovering a cure for the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease has affected millions of people worldwide and today at least 50,000 volunteers with and without Alzheimer’s, are urgently needed to participate in 175 actively enrolling 3 Alzheimer’s Disease in the African American Culture clinical trials and studies in the United States. To reach that goal researchers will need to screen at least half a million potential volunteers. References Brightfocus. org 4 Alzheimer’s Disease in the African American Culture Alz. org Preliminary examination of progression of Alzheimer’s disease in a rural Southern African American cohort (Wagner, Wymer, Arlozzi, Bachman, Walker, Mintzer 2007) ncbi. nlm. gov.