What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s is a brain disorder that gradually deteriorates memory and cognitive processes. Early-onset cases can begin between the ages of 30 and 60, although most are of the late-onset type, which typically begins in a person’s mid-60s. Alzheimer’s disease symptoms vary from person to person, but can include the following:
- Difficulty finding the words they are trying to say
- Problems with spatial orientation and visual perception
- Impaired reasoning or judgment
- Getting lost, frequently misplacing things, or forgetting to attend appointments
- General memory loss
- Mood and personality changes
The damage that Alzheimer’s causes can occur long before problems become evident, which is why it’s so important for all older Americans to get screened for the disease as early as possible.
African Americans and Alzheimer’s Disease
African Americans are up to twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia than White Americans. Individuals in this group may also experience additional symptoms, such as irritability or aggression, problems sleeping, changes in appetite, decreased motor function, delusions, and hallucinations.
Despite these facts, African Americans are 35% less likely to be diagnosed with this disease. Researchers attribute this in part to attitudes about memory loss and mental illness within Black communities, and in part to medical bias. Medical professionals often don’t diagnose Black patients with Alzheimer’s until they exhibit advanced symptoms of the condition.
For these reasons, it is even more important that older African Americans receive regular checkups with a primary care physician (PCP) and get screened for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Screening For Alzheimer’s Disease
There are several different ways to test for Alzheimer’s. Screening typically involves an examination by a PCP, a geriatric specialist, or an Alzheimer’s specialist. They may use any combination of the following to diagnose a patient with the condition:
- Physical evaluation
- Interviewing the patient (or someone close to the patient) to find out whether they are exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia and how severe the symptoms are
- Laboratory tests
- Brain imaging tests
- Detailed memory testing
African Americans can get more information about Alzheimer’s disease and other health problems that impact their communities by seeking out resources from equity-driven organizations like The African American Wellness Project.
The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) was organized to respond to inequities in the healthcare delivery system. African Americans suffer from health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease at a disproportionately higher rate than other groups; we provide the resources, information, and tools that Black patients need to get the best quality of healthcare possible. We do this by providing culturally relevant health information as well as access to African American health experts.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, consider joining a clinical trial with our partner organization, Functional Neuromodulation, Inc. (FNM).
You can also check out our Health Answers and Symptom Checker tools, or contact us to learn more. Join AAWP in the fight as we do our part to ensure that the African American community receives equitable comprehensive healthcare. Donate today!