Things To Know About Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Health in Black Communities
June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. Among the greatest misconceptions about brain disease are the notion that cognitive decline is a natural part of aging and the assumption that all races develop brain disease at the same rates—or for the same reasons. Here’s what you need to know about brain health and Alzheimer’s disease in African American communities.
Brain Health Facts
Recent studies suggest that Black people’s brains may age faster than those in other groups because of racism-related stressors. This may put communities of color at a greater risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of cognitive decline. African Americans who live in food or medical deserts and have unhealthy lifestyles are also at risk of developing cerebrovascular disease (brain diseases related to blood vessel function) due to:
- High blood pressure
- Poor sleep
- Overconsumption of animal fats and sweets
- Poor stress management
Alzheimer’s Awareness Facts
Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease that slowly deteriorates memory and cognitive processes, and the most common type begins in a person’s mid-60s. Some important facts to know about Alzheimer’s disease in Black communities include the following:
- The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is twice as high for older African Americans than for older White Americans
- The actual prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans is 14%-100% higher than it is in White Americans
- Genetic and environmental influences can be significant factors for the disproportionate development of Alzheimer’s in Black Americans
- Black patients are significantly less likely than White patients to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at an early stage of the disease
Ways Black Communities Can Promote Good Brain Health
The permanent eradication of racism and racist systems can help millions of African Americans to enjoy better brain and physical health, among countless other benefits. In the short term, people of color can improve and protect their brain health in the following ways:
- Understand the risks for and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
- Talk to a doctor about getting screened for Alzheimer’s using methods that accurately diagnose African Americans
- Find ways to incorporate more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains into daily meals while avoiding excessive amounts of meat, dairy, sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods
- Get regular exercise
- Quit or avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Stay mentally engaged by keeping an active social life, learning new skills or hobbies, taking classes, or playing games that involve puzzles and brain teasers
A Good Prescription for the Health of Black Americans
The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) was formed in 2002 to respond to inequities in the healthcare delivery system and is dedicated to health equity and better health outcomes for people of color. African Americans suffer from health conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than other ethnic groups, and we believe these health disparities will continue to exist if we don’t take action.
AAWP serves as a trusted megaphone and provides culturally relevant tools, resources, information, and programming, such as our Symptom Checker. AAWP encourages African Americans to advocate for themselves and protect their health, regardless of insurance status or other circumstances.
Check out our website, follow us on social media, consider making a donation, and join us in our important mission!