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African-Americans and Alzheimer’s: Our Brains Respond Differently

alzheimers-brainpuzzle-512-300x225A new study reveals that African-Americans are affected differently by Alzheimer’s than their white peers.

The research was headed by Rush University Medical Center’s Lisa L. Barnes and suggests that African-Americans are more likely to suffer from other dementia pathologies in addition to Alzheimer’s. The pathologies include the presence of Lewy bodies. Lewy bodies, which prevent the normal function of the brain, are abnormal proteins that are present in the brain and are also lesions that are formed due to the hardening of the brain’s small arteries. They can cause delirium, hallucinations and drastic behavioral changes. Lewy bodies are also responsible for the body stiffness and trembling that is present in Parkinson’s disease and are primarily caused by high blood pressure and other conditions of the vascular system.

The medical study suggests that African-Americans should seek alternate strategies for preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. A number of therapeutic treatments include the removal or modification of beta amyloid. An accumulation of beta amyloid is the first in the chain of events that leads to Alzheimer’s. For African-Americans, treatments should likely entail more than beta amyloid management. The study also indicates that more Black patients should be enrolled in clinical trials in order to find ideal treatment options.

The study appeared in the medical journal Neurology and involved 122 brains that were examined post-mortem. Forty-one of the brains belonged to African-Americans who were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before death. The findings were compared to the brains of 81 Caucasian cadavers who had also been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Barnes noted that the research study was the largest sample of its kind. However, she acknowledged that the sample is still quite small. This is somewhat due to the fact that African-Americans are less likely to participate in clinical research, for both historical and cultural reasons. Barnes also stated that scientists should do a more thorough job of earning the trust of the African-American community.

Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 1.3 million Americans.

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