Black Americans more susceptible to Alzheimer's, less likely to seek treatment

Posted: Feb. 15, 2013 10:43 am Updated: Mar. 1, 2013 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The Alzheimer's Association is making a concerted effort during February -- which is Black History Month-- to create awareness in the black community about the disease and other forms of dementia.

African-Americans are twice as likely as whites to develop Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, according to Angela Green of the Peoria office of the Central Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, which oversees the Quincy area. Studies also indicate there is another tie-in to this problem.

"African-Americans are less likely to seek treatment for their symptoms," Green said. "In fact, though they are twice as susceptible to the disease, African-Americans are only 38 percent more likely to have a diagnosis."

Tim Klobe, an education specialist for the Quincy Area Branch of the Alzheimer's Association, says it is vital to create a greater sense of urgency within the black community about this subject.

"There just does not seem to be a lot of awareness, and that is important," Klobe said. "It is important they learn there are things to do when they are younger that can help keep your brain healthier and help lower the risk of Alzheimer's, so they can be there for their families when they are older."

Dietary changes, a better fitness regimen and keeping the brain active are among the items hat may help the brain stay healthier longer. Mere extensive precautionary measures are available from the Alzheimer's Association. The Quincy Area Branch, which can be reached at (217) 228-1111, is on the second floor of the Quincy Senior and Family Resource Center, 639 York.

February also is American Heart Month, and black Americans have a higher instance of vascular diseases, which are a suspected risk factor of Alzheimer's disease.

"Advancing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer's, and many of the affected dismiss the early warning signs as a normal result of aging. This is simply not true," Green said. "Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking and other brain functions. There is no prevention, no treatment and no cure.

"Early diagnosis is of vital importance when treating Alzheimer's disease."