A new blood test for Alzheimer’s disease is showing promise, according to researchers from North Texas Health Science Center, who have been working on developing a way to screen for the difficult-to-diagnose condition. The same group will also be investigating the relationship between Latinos and Alzheimer’s, as non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics have a higher incidence of the condition when compared to non-Hispanic whites.
“It’s (Latinos) the largest ethnic group in the Unites States, and there’s almost no literature, and it’s a major problem,” Dr. Sid O’Bryant, a researcher at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, told NBCDFW concerning the disparity. “I looked at it and said, ‘We can do something about this.’ There’s plenty of reasoning to suggest the disease may impact Hispanics differently.”
According to O’Bryant, they have created a blood test which screens for multiple blood markers and has thus far had a 90 percent accuracy rate in in detecting Alzheimer’s disease. While it will take at least several years to have the test approved through the appropriate regulatory agencies, once available, the blood test will be a useful preliminary screening tool for primary doctors.
Alzheimer’s disease and Latinos
Because diabetes is a risk factor when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s disease, Latinos are of particular interest to the study because of a high prevalence of diabetes among the population. According to the Office of Minority Health, Latinos are 1.5 times as likely to die from diabetes compared to non-Hispanic whites. Mexican-Americans are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with diabetes, and are 1.6 times as likely to start treatment for end-stage renal disease related to diabetes.
“Diabetes is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s, and we know the prevalence of diabetes in the Hispanic population is huge,” said to NBCDFW Liz Trevino, UNTHSC School of Public Health assistant professor. “”Many of our Hispanics don’t go there,” she said, addressing the barriers surrounding mental health among Latinos. “They keep it from their families. They won’t say, ‘My mother or someone lost their memory.’”
The Alzheimer’s Organization indicates Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 50 to 80 percent of all cases. There are currently more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
A report from the Alzheimer’s Organization indicates Hispanics are not only pre-disposed to Alzheimer’s because of diabetes issues, but also other factors also add to the disparity, including a lack of access to appropriate health care service and cultural stigmas.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is sounding the alarm about dementia in Hispanic/Latino communities, not to cause panic but to stimulate action to prevent disaster,” stated the organization in the report. “Alzheimer’s disease is no longer a hopeless cause. By mobilizing public and private resources in a campaign to fight Alzheimer’s, and by enlisting Hispanic/Latino communities in that campaign, we can change the course of Alzheimer’s for families who are now at risk.”
Do you believe mental health stigmas in the Latino community interfere with accurate and early diagnosis of such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease?