Dementia risk factors have greater impact on ethnic minorities: study
The study revealed that certain dementia risk factors are not only more prevalent in minority ethnic groups but also exert a greater impact than in the white population
Researchers have discovered that common risk factors for dementia, like high blood pressure and diabetes, have a more significant impact on black and Asian individuals, according to a recent study.
This finding has led to calls for increased efforts to address health disparities.
The global number of adults affected by dementia is expected to almost triple to 153 million by 2050, posing a significant threat to future healthcare and social systems worldwide.
Ethnic minorities have higher rates of risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes, making them more vulnerable to dementia, The Guardian reported.
The recent study was published in the journal Plos One, and researchers from University College London led by Naaheed Mukadam investigated the impact of dementia risk factors on different ethnic groups.
The study, which analysed health data for 865,674 adults in England from 1997 to 2018, revealed that certain risk factors, such as diabetes and obesity, had a more significant effect on ethnic minorities compared to white individuals.
The research team found that 12.6% of the cohort developed dementia, with varying rates among different ethnic groups, including 16% white, 8.6% south Asian, 12.1% black, and 9.7% from other minority ethnic backgrounds.
The study did not pinpoint the exact reasons behind these disparities but noted a magnified impact of specific risk factors in certain ethnic groups.
In their assessment of dementia risk factors among patients, researchers examined conditions like obesity, diabetes, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia (lipid imbalance leading to heart disease).
The study highlighted that high blood pressure was linked to a greater dementia risk in black individuals compared to white individuals.
Among south Asian people, the risk was higher for sleep disorders, diabetes, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The impact of high blood pressure on dementia risk was 1.57 times higher in south Asian individuals and 1.18 times higher in black individuals, compared to their white counterparts, the researchers said.
The research team concluded that their findings could explain the previously observed higher susceptibility, earlier onset of dementia, and shorter survival after diagnosis in minority ethnic groups.
According to the authors, their study revealed that certain dementia risk factors are not only more prevalent in minority ethnic groups but also exert a greater impact than in the white population.
They emphasised the necessity for tailored dementia prevention strategies, considering ethnicity and specific risk-factor profiles to ensure equitable dementia prevention efforts.
David Thomas, the head of policy at Alzheimer’s Research UK, emphasised the concerning reality that individuals from ethnic minorities confront an elevated risk of various health conditions, affecting their overall well-being.
Recent studies have indicated that dementia is no exception to this trend, with higher mortality rates observed in south Asian and black communities, and at younger ages.
The latest research underscores a potential explanation: the amplified impact of risk factors like high blood pressure on increasing dementia risk among both south Asian and black populations.
Thomas stressed the importance of understanding this heightened effect, as it presents a significant opportunity to mitigate the personal and societal impact of dementia. He also highlighted the need for a comprehensive national prevention strategy spanning multiple government sectors to address these health disparities effectively.
A second study conducted by UCL indicates that individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia, have difficulty in turning while walking.
The study, involving approximately 100 participants and published in Current Biology, revealed that those with early Alzheimer’s tended to overestimate their turns and displayed increased variability in their sense of direction.
Sian Gregory from the Alzheimer’s Society noted that difficulties in navigation are among the initial noticeable changes associated with the disease, making this research a valuable source of insight into Alzheimer’s progression.