Black, Hispanic Alzheimer's Patients Live Longer

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Black and Hispanic Alzheimer's patients live longer than whites,Asian-Americans and American Indians who have the disease, according toa 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 30Alzheimer's Disease Centers across the nation. The centers are standardAlzheimer's care facilities that receive funding from the National Institute on Aging, and many of them are affiliated with universities.

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Thestudy included information on more than 31,000 patients ages 65 andolder who were diagnosed with possible or probable Alzheimer's disease.Eighty-one percent of patients were white, 12% were black, 4% wereHispanic and 1.5% were Asian-American. About 39% of the participantsdied during the study period. Patients lived an average of 4.8 yearsafter diagnosis, according to the study. Patients who were older, maleand had poorer cognitive skill scores were the study participants mostlikely 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 sameamount of time as whites. The findings remained the same even afterresearchers accounted for possible contributing factors such as age,gender and living environment. Researchers also found that minoritieswere less likely than whites to die from the disease. The death ratefor blacks was 30% and 21% for Hispanics, compared with 41% for whites.Mehta said the reasons for the findings are unknown and furtherresearch is needed.

"For example, we might consider thediffering amounts of social support from family members in thediffering ethnic groups. And also the different amounts of otherdiseases found in these patients and the treatment of those otherdiseases, which could be different between groups," Mehta said. Shealso noted that because the sample of participants is notrepresentative of U.S. Alzheimer's patients as a whole, the findingsmight not be true for the rest of the population. She added, "Butwhat's really important here is that, if we do find the underlyingfactors that account for the differences, we might be able to improvesurvival for patients, regardless of their race" (HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 11/14).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser WeeklyHealth Disparities Report,search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly HealthDisparities Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of TheHenry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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