Researchers from the Universities of California, San Francisco, Johns Hopkins and the University of Mississippi at Jackson conducted a study to determine the risks of dementia and rate of cognitive decline in non-white populations.
In the study published in the November 2014 issue of Neuroepidemiology, the researchers gathered adult, middle-aged African Americans and whites who had previously enrolled in an Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Brain MRI Study. They tested 1,886 participants on verbal memory, processing speed, and verbal fluency 4 times over the course of 14 years. African American accounted for 49 percent of the participants.
“They compared cognitive change in participants with baseline diabetes and incident (diagnosed after baseline) diabetes to that of participants who did not have diabetes. African Americans identified as diabetic at baseline had 41 percent greater annual decline in processing speed and 50 percent greater annual decline in verbal fluency than those without diabetes. The researchers suggest that this accelerated 14-year decline may reflect adverse effects of longer duration and more advanced diabetes,” Jeannette Y. Wick wrote in her article “Diabetes and Dementia: African Americans at Increased Risk.”
The study found that African-Americans with baseline diabetes had higher fasting blood glucose levels and were more likely to use anti-diabetes medication than whites with baseline diabetes.
These findings are alarming as diabetes is increasingly common in the African American community. Black people are twice as likely to have the disease as non-Hispanic whites. Currently 2.8 million or 13 percent of all African-Americans have diabetes. These numbers only grow with age; 25 percent of African-Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes and one in four African-American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
The National Diabetes Educational System has released the following guidelines to help African-Americans, specifically, to avoid falling victim to this silent disease.
1. Make eating healthy food and being physically active a priority, getting at least 30 minutes of physical activities per day.
2. Involve your friends and family in your workouts to make them more enjoyable
3. Always forgo the super-size options at fast food restaurants. Choose carbohydrates that have lots of fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat calcium-rich foods such as low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese.
4. Make time to prepare and cook healthy foods. Freeze portions so you have healthy meals ready for days when you’re too tired or don’t have time to cook.
5. Choose water over soda or juice. Drink a glass of water 10 minutes before your meal to curb overeating.