1.3 million Hispanics will have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050

Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are projected to increase more than six-fold among Hispanics in the U.S. during the first half of the 21st century, according to a new report released today by the Alzheimer’s Association. This increase means that 1.3 million Hispanics will have Alzheimer’s disease by 2050, compared to fewer than 200,000 currently living with the disease.

"This report should serve as a wake-up call to Congress and the nation,” said Stephen McConnell, Ph.D., senior vice president and public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association. “As the fastest growing population in the country and the group that will have the greatest life expectancy of all ethnic groups, Hispanics will experience a dramatic rise in their risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This will overwhelm their families and communities unless we take action now.”

The report, entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease among the Hispanic Population,” brought swift reaction from major Hispanic groups and leaders.

"The Congress and the Administration must quickly approve the Alzheimer’s Association’s request for an additional $40 million for Alzheimer research,” said Hector Flores, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which includes 600 councils and 115,000 members nationwide. “This is our best hope for developing new medicines to help those with the disease and to ultimately find a cure.”

Raul Yzaguirre, President of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), which serves five million people and has 310 affiliates nationwide, said, “We cannot sit back and do nothing when we know that the Hispanic community will face a devastating blow from Alzheimer’s disease in the years ahead. We must work for more funding, raise awareness among Hispanics about the disease, and inform them about the resources available to help people with Alzheimer’s and their families.”

Representative Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said, "As a son caring for a mother with Alzheimer's, I understand firsthand the strain it can be on families because it not only affects families' lives, jobs, and finances, but also their mental and physical well-being. Congress must give Alzheimer's disease its full attention, and develop a national strategy for fighting it. Unless we invest in Alzheimer research now, the disease will become a bigger and bigger drain on a health care system that is already at the breaking point."

Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Health Task Force, said “Alzheimer’s threatens the future of Hispanics all across the nation. I urge the Hispanic community to come together to join the fight against this disease and preserve the well-being of our families.”

Both LULAC and La Raza are members of the Association’s Coalition of Hope, the largest Coalition ever formed to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and support for research. The Coalition has a membership of more than 200 organizations representing over 50 million Americans.

The report was prepared by the Alzheimer’s Association and cites a number of published studies of Alzheimer’s disease and Census figures. It warns that “dementia is a looming but unrecognized public health crisis in Hispanic/Latino communities in the United States.”

Dr. Rafael Lantigua, Director of the Columbia University Center for Active Life of Minority Elders, said that “ in research and practice our analysis of known or suspected risk factors for Alzheimer’s shows that Hispanics may be at greater risk for the disease in the years ahead.”

Key Findings from the Report

  • The life expectancy of Hispanics will increase to age 87 by 2050, surpassing all other ethnic groups in the United States. Age is the single greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. By the middle of the century, Hispanics will increase as a proportion of the total elderly population from five percent today to 16 percent.
  • Hispanics have high rates of vascular disease which puts them at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s. A growing body of evidence indicates that vascular disease risk factors -- including diabetes -- may also be risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and stroke-related dementia. To exacerbate the situation, Hispanics are low users of medical services and have less health insurance than non-Hispanics, making it less likely that they will receive the medical services needed to monitor and control the conditions that may lead to Alzheimer’s.
  • Hispanics have the lowest education levels of any group. Research shows that education may have some protective effects against Alzheimer’s. One in ten Hispanic elders have no formal education. Over half have eight years of schooling or less.

Impact on Families

The report also emphasizes the burden that Alzheimer’s places on families and communities. As a result of the strong cultural value of family responsibility in the Hispanic community, family members – particularly daughters and other females – care for relatives with Alzheimer’s for longer periods of time. And as compared to caregivers in other communities, Hispanic caregivers take care of relatives with higher levels of impairment.

Alzheimer’s Association Issues Call to Action

The Alzheimer’s Association is doing its part to meet the needs of Hispanics. Its Contact Center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with Spanish-speaking information specialists and professional care consultants. The Center is accessible by calling 1-800-272-3900 toll free, or by visiting the Association’s Web site at www.alz.org, and directs those inquiring to the Association’s nationwide network of 81 local chapters.

The Association is releasing the report as part of its national campaign to change the way Americans think about Alzheimer’s. As part of this effort, the Association is asking Americans to “Maintain Your Brain” -- learn more about what is known about Alzheimer’s disease; understand what America’s medical research community has accomplished; and join the Association in advocating for a renewed commitment to research and improved care for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The report also calls for:

  • Additional research on Alzheimer’s disease in ethnic and cultural minorities, including increased participation by Hispanics in clinical trials.
  • Culturally and linguistically sensitive education and outreach aimed at risk reduction, early diagnosis, and treatment.
  • $40 million in additional federal funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support under-funded areas of research that can accelerate the discovery of a cure or prevention. This appropriation, added to the $679 million now allocated to the NIH for Alzheimer research, would be an important step towards the Association’s ultimate goal of $1 billion in annual NIH research funding to end the disease.

The report was funded through an unrestricted grant by PhRMA.

To read the complete report:

Hispanic Report (English)
Hispanic Report (Spanish)


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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