Black, Hispanic Alzheimer’s Patients Live Longer Than Others
Black and Hispanic Alzheimer's patients live longer than whites, Asian-Americans and American Indians who have the disease, according to a study published online Tuesday in the journal Neurology, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report reports.
For the study, lead author Kala Mehta, an assistant adjunct professor at the University of California-San Francisco, and colleagues analyzed data from between 1984 and 2005 at more than 30 Alzheimer's Disease Centers across the nation. The centers are standard Alzheimer's care facilities that receive funding from the National Institute on Aging, and many of them are affiliated with universities.
The study included information on more than 31,000 patients ages 65 and older who were diagnosed with possible or probable Alzheimer's disease. Eighty-one percent of patients were white, 12% were black, 4% were Hispanic and 1.5% were Asian-American. About 39% of the participants died during the study period. Patients lived an average of 4.8 years after diagnosis, according to the study. Patients who were older, male and had poorer cognitive skill scores were the study participants most likely to die from the disease (Mozes, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/14).
Compared with whites, Hispanics lived about 40% longer and blacks lived about 15% longer (Dunham, Reuters, 11/14). Asian-Americans and American Indians lived about the same amount of time as whites. The findings remained the same even after researchers accounted for possible contributing factors such as age, gender and living environment. Researchers also found that minorities were less likely than whites to die from the disease. The death rate for blacks was 30% and 21% for Hispanics, compared with 41% for whites. Mehta said the reasons for the findings are unknown and further research is needed.
"For example, we might consider the differing amounts of social support from family members in the differing ethnic groups. And also the different amounts of other diseases found in these patients and the treatment of those other diseases, which could be different between groups," Mehta said. She also noted that because the sample of participants is not representative of U.S. Alzheimer's patients as a whole, the findings might not be true for the rest of the population. She added, "But what's really important here is that, if we do find the underlying factors that account for the differences, we might be able to improve survival for patients, regardless of their race" (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/14).
An abstract of the study is available online.