Risk factors for dementia include a family history of the disease, genetics, smoking, alcohol use, certain heart issues, and even diabetes. A new study, though, finds that your ethnicity may play a role in which risk factors impact you the most.
Research recently published in PLOS One investigated the health records of more than 865,000 people of a variety of backgrounds living in England, to determine if there were ethnic differences in potentially modifiable dementia risk factors. The findings show that there were differences, with factors like hypertension and diabetes exercising stronger impacts on certain ethnicities compared with others. The team says this shows the need to tailor prevention efforts based on a person’s ethnic background.
The study authors write, “We found that not only are some risk factors for dementia more common in minority ethnic groups but that the impact of some of these risk factors is even greater than in the White population. So we need tailored dementia prevention, taking into account ethnicity and risk factor profile to ensure dementia prevention is equitable.”
The health care records of the participants spanned from 1997 to 2018, during which time 12.6% of the study subjects developed dementia. The researchers found that after adjusting for other possible contributing factors, hypertension was linked to a higher risk of developing the disease in Black people than in white people. Hypertension, obesity, diabetes, low HDL cholesterol, and sleep disorders were associated with a higher risk for South Asian people. For hypertension specifically, there was a 1.57 times greater impact on South Asian people and 1.18 times greater impact on Black people, compared with white subjects.
The researchers say their findings may help explain why certain ethnic groups are more likely to get dementia, why it may strike earlier, and why their survival time may be shorter. For example, in the United States, older Black Americans are twice as likely to develop dementia than older white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also 1.5 times as likely as white Americans to develop the disease.
In light of the differences in their own study, the researchers write, “Dementia prevention efforts should prioritise people from South Asian and Black groups, co-designing education, policy and behavioural interventions with these communities to ensure they are acceptable, feasible and scalable.”