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Alzheimer’s, Dementia A Growing Problem Among Mexican-Americans

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease today, and the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association said that as many as 16 million people will have the disease by 2050.

The numbers are growing because it's a disease that increases with age, and the U.S. population is getting older. With more Mexican-Americans making up that older population, it's a group that is particularly vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease, said Dr. Donald Royall of the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

“As the population of the United States both ages and turns more Hispanic, then the number of cases of Mexican-American Alzheimer’s patients is likely to grow,” Royall said.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a syndrome that affects mental capacity to the point of interfering with daily life. Although the prevalence of dementia is higher in Mexican-Americans, factors other than Alzheimer’s may be the cause, Royall said.

“There’s a lot of reason to suspect Mexican-Americans may be experiencing a lot of other causes of dementia like vascular dementia, diabetes can affect cognition, depression can affect cognition. And the rates of all of those problems are higher in Mexican Americans,” Royall said.

Researchers are trying to find ways to diagnose dementia very early on, he said, so interventions such as lifestyle changes or medications could be taken to delay the onset and help with the symptoms.

But factors such as language, culture and education can make diagnosing dementia more difficult when it comes to minority patients, Royall said.

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