New study finds Latinos are more likely to develop Alzheimer's and dementia

ByJohny Fernandez WABC logo
Thursday, October 5, 2023
New study finds Latinos are more likely to develop Alzheimer's and dementia
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease. Johny Fernandez takes a closer look at another startling statistic.

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, but another startling statistic reveals that Latinos are 50% more likely than non-Hispanics to develop the disease and related dementia.

Dalma Riquelme has fond memories of her mom, Esperanza, before she was diagnosed with dementia 13 years ago.

"She was the only person that ever got me," Riquelme said. "She talked to me. Dame consejos. There was a lot of guidance. I miss that part."

The brain disorder, which is caused by Alzheimer's disease, impacts a person's memory and cognitive thinking skills to carry out simple tasks.

Riquelme says it was after a family trip that she noticed her mom acting differently, and a short time later a friend confirmed what she suspected.

"I was outside shopping, I saw your mother," said Riquelme, who recounted what her friend told her. "She was just standing in the middle of the sidewalk looking confused and scared, and when I approached her and asked if she was ok, she said 'I don't remember where I live.'"

Dr. Miguel Arce Renteria is an assistant professor of neuropsychology at Columbia University.

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He says Latinos are at a higher rate of developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease, especially in areas like the Bronx.

"Cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, we are thinking here like hypertension, diabetes especially those type of diseases in mid-life, are associated as well, with an increased risk of dementia later in life," Renteria said.

He says other factors contributing to the illness are an individual's level of education and proper representation in the healthcare field.

"Several studies without surprise have indicated that a lot of Latino members of the community do feel that they're experiencing discrimination when trying to access healthcare options," he said.

But Latinos may also be at an advantage.

"Using two languages may help reduce your risk," Renteria said. "Some studies do find bilinguals may develop dementia at a later age than monolinguals."

He also stresses the importance of understanding the difference between normal signs of aging and the early signs of Alzheimer's.

Riquelma says this is all information she now understands, as she cares for her mother, and has some advice for caregivers.

"Be ok with taking care of yourself," she said. "If you can find the resources to be with that loved one. Take time to smell the roses, because if you can't take care of you, you can't take care of them."


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