New research has found that the risk of Alzheimer’s may emerge as early as the teen and young adult years, especially in African Americans.
The study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2020, analyzed the potential risk factors of Alzheimer’s, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high blood cholesterol. Researchers also considered social factors such as education quality.
The Alzheimer’s Association found that older African Americans were more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease compared to whites.
Chief Science Officer of the Alzheimer’s Association Dr. Maria Carrillo said, “By identifying, verifying, and acting to counter those Alzheimer’s risk factors that we can change, we may reduce new cases and eventually the total number of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”
“Research like this is important in addressing health inequities and providing resources that could make a positive impact on a person’s life,” she added. “These new reports from AAIC 2020 show that it’s never too early, or too late, to take action to protect your memory and thinking abilities.”
The study was conducted to understand whether lifestyle changes, which also target many risk factors, could protect cognitive function in the elderly who are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The researchers looked at more than 710 African Americans and found that hypertension and diabetes are common in adolescents and are associated with poor cognitive function.
Dr. Kristen George from the University of California and the team looked at 165 adolescents, 439 young adults, and 110 adults.
Previously, it was unclear whether heart disease is a potential risk factor of poor cognition in late life. The current study suggests that heart disease is one of the risk factors for adolescence to develop Alzheimer’s late in life, especially African Americans.
The investigators also found that a higher body mass index (BMI) in early adulthood could increase late-life dementia risk. However, there is little evidence about the role of higher BMI in causing Alzheimer’s later in life.
The study, however, did not find any link between midlife BMI and Alzheimer’s risk in women. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s risk was 2.5 times higher among men who were obese in their early adulthood.