Latinos are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s.  Diet, lifestyle can make a difference

Latinos are 50% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Diet, lifestyle can make a difference

Janet Bell has watched her mother’s health decline since the 83-year-old was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year ago.

Janet’s mother, Carmen, began experiencing symptoms that many people consider normal for a person of that age. Carmen lived alone in her house in Puerto Rico. Janet and her younger sister, Glorimar, who lives in Connecticut, often visited their mom.

During one of her visits to the island, Janett realized that her mother had begun to forget things she had done throughout her adult life, such as going to her monthly appointment to get her hair done.

Things took a turn for the worse when Carmen began to isolate herself in her home and stopped talking to her longtime neighbors.

The last straw that made Janet bring her mother to North Texas was when, on one of her visits to Puerto Rico, her sister found her mother in noticeable physical deterioration.

“She had lost a lot of weight, she had stopped eating,” said Bell, a Spanish professor at Tarleton State University. She said her mother kept forgetting she had food in the fridge.

“On one visit, my sister found in the fridge a pot full of spoiled rice with worms that my mother had had there for who knows how long,” she said.

Living with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a type of brain disease caused by damage to nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Neurons in the brain are necessary for thinking, walking, talking and every human activity.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and worsen over time until they become so severe that they interfere with daily tasks.

The brain changes of Alzheimer’s disease include the accumulation of the abnormal proteins beta-amyloid and phosphorylated tau, as well as the degeneration of neurons. The brain changes of Alzheimer’s disease are the most common cause of dementia.

Eventually, Alzheimer’s neuronal damage spreads to parts of the brain that enable basic bodily functions such as walking and swallowing.

Individuals are bedridden and need round-the-clock care. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s disease is fatal.

Studies show that people age 65 and older survive an average of four to eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia, but some live up to 20 extra years.

The most important risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s are older age, genetics, and having a family history of Alzheimer’s.

Five percent of people aged 65 to 74, 13.1% of people aged 75 to 84, and 33.3% of people aged 85 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia in the United States.

However, it is important to note that Alzheimer’s dementia is not a normal part of aging and that older age alone is not enough to cause Alzheimer’s dementia. Researchers have found several genes that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. In fact, in 2022, researchers identified 31 new genes that appear to affect biological processes known to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

An estimated 6.7 million Americans of all ages are living with Alzheimer’s disease in 2023.

In 2020, about 400,000 Texans age 65 and older were living with Alzheimer’s, and more than 1,079,000 family members and friends provide care, according to the Dallas and Northeast Texas chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Dallas County has approximately 37,700 people over the age of 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, a rate of 12.6% in the county.

Hispanics are more prone

Studies have revealed that the Latino population in the United States is 50% more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that by 2060, the number of Latinos age 65 and older is expected to nearly quadruple, and Latinos will experience the largest increase in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia cases of any racial/ethnic group. National team. the United States.

The CDC estimated that by 2060, 3.5 million Hispanics will have Alzheimer’s.

Although the reasons why Latinos are more likely to get Alzheimer’s are not fully known, neuropsychologist Imaris Rios-Vazquez said that eating and being sedentary are factors that contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s in the Hispanic community.

“The kind of food you eat, not exercising and not going to the doctor when the first symptoms appear are factors that can cause Alzheimer’s to develop,” said Rios-Vazquez, who is director of cognitive research and co-director of the study. of clinical neuropsychology. at Kerwin Medical Center in Dallas.

Rios-Vazquez said there are things people can do to try to prevent Alzheimer’s shadow from haunting their lives.

“You have to do simple things like walking 20 or 30 minutes every day, whatever helps the heart helps the brain,” Rios-Vazquez said.

“Spanish people like to eat a lot of tamales, cakes and all these delicious things, but we have to focus on eating vegetables, nuts, whole grains and fish, which helps to have a lower risk of developing dementia,” said Rios-Vazquez . who was born and raised in Puerto Rico.

Studies show that Hispanics also have a high risk of diabetes, which, among other chronic conditions, is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The racial and cultural diversity of the US Hispanic population adds further complexity to the overall picture of Alzheimer’s disease in Hispanics

Rios-Vazquez said that exercising the brain is another great tool to help put up barriers against Alzheimer’s.

“Doing new things for the brain helps a lot. At an older age, there are people who want to learn to play an instrument or a new language and that’s great because it helps the brain. Knowing and learning new situations helps a lot with brain plasticity,” Rios-Vazquez said.

Help is available

In Texas, approximately 1 million unpaid caregivers provided care to Texans with Alzheimer’s in 2022, which equates to approximately 1.5 billion hours of unpaid care at a cost of approximately $23.6 billion annually.

Total annual payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care in the U.S. for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are expected to rise from about $345 billion in 2023 to nearly $1 trillion in 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is a big challenge for families,” said Terri Contreras, bilingual caregiver support specialist.

Contreras, who works with The Senior Source, said the nonprofit helps families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s find the resources to deal with the condition.

Contreras explained that programs that can help range from transporting patients to their medical appointments to connecting with caregivers trained to care for people with Alzheimer’s.

“It’s overwhelming, but we can help people through this whole process,” said Contreras, who runs support groups in English and Spanish for families caring for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

Emotional stress

The emotional toll on people caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s is perhaps the highest price to pay.

“It’s hard to see these changes, it’s hard to accept that your loved one has this disease,” Bell said of her mother’s declining health. “There are days when she won’t let herself be helped, she won’t take her medication. It’s a difficult situation and it’s emotionally and physically tiring.”

Contreras knows that people caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s also need emotional support.

“People get tired and need a break. They need someone to help them, someone they can trust to leave their home for a while and live their lives,” Contreras said.

Belle relies on her husband for support and also has the help of her sister, who takes her mom to her home in Connecticut for periods.

“My husband’s support was vital. “My husband and I always go out for dinner on Friday, it’s our date night,” Bell said. “Emotional healing, going to church, reading and attending my support group has helped me a lot.”

Despite the support she receives, there are times when Belle feels like she’s carrying the world on her shoulders.

“I’ve always considered myself a loving and patient person, but at the same time, I feel like there are days when I can’t take it anymore and I keep saying to myself, ‘Why did this have to happen to her, why my mom?’ ” Bell said. “I just want my mom back home. I want the mom I knew before she got Alzheimer’s.”

Helpful resources

Alzheimer’s Association Dallas and Northeast Texas Chapter

24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900

Location: 5000 Quorum Drive, Suite 530, Dallas

Kerwin Medical Center

Phone: 972-433-9100

Location: 8198 Walnut Hill Lane, Jackson Building, Suite 100, Dallas

The Higher Source

Phone: 214-823-5700

Location: 3910 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas

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