Stress of poverty, racism raise risk of Alzheimer’s for African-Americans, new research suggests

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BDN Maine/Washington Post

A new group of studies into racial disparities among people with Alzheimer’s disease suggests that social conditions, including the stress of poverty and racism, substantially raise the risks of dementia for African-Americans.

In four separate studies, researchers found that conditions that affect blacks disproportionately compared with other groups — such as poor living conditions and stressful events such as the loss of a sibling, the divorce of one’s parents or chronic unemployment — have severe consequences for brain health later on.

One study by University of Wisconsin researchers found that stress literally takes years off a person’s life in terms of brain function — an average of four years for African-Americans, compared with 1½ years for whites.

Another Wisconsin study showed that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with a later decline in cognitive function and even the biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

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