A new study was released by the Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association that reported more than thirty three percent of Alaska Natives and American Indians over the age of 65 are expected to develop dementia.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines dementia as the following: “An umbrella term for a group of cognitive disorders typically characterized by memory impairment, as well as marked difficulty in the domains of language, motor activity object recognition, and disturbance of executive function – the ability to plan, organize, and abstract.”

For unknown reasons, minorities are at a higher risk for developing dementia as they age. There have been several research projects that suggest the heightened risk of high blood pressure and diabetes in Hispanics and African-Americans are contributing factors to the development of dementia. Other factors that have contributed are the various socioeconomic environments in which certain elderly patients live. However, the genetic factors have yet to be proven and leave many medical professionals baffled.

The specific project conducted by the Alzheimer’s & Dementia Association wanted to focus on dementia that affected Pacific Islanders and the American Indians. It is the first study on this specific target group. The study focused on elders over the age of 64 that were not diagnosed with dementia. The test subjects were followed for a span of twenty five years to see who would develop the disease. Researchers found many interesting differences between six racial groups over the course of the study, including that 35 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives developed dementia.

Healthy habits that helped protect the heart lowered the risk of dementia. Ensuring someone was eating well helped to lower his or her cholesterol and blood sugar, which in turn ensured their heart was stronger. Education seemed to be another important factor in helping to prevent the disease. Many believe that having high quality schooling helped with high level thinking skills, which makes the brain more active. Many medical professionals recommend any type of puzzle be played once a day to help stimulate brain activity.

The fact that Alaskan Natives and American Indians suffer from higher levels of heart disease and diabetes and obesity from poor diet could play into why so many elderly people develop dementia. A lack of decent medical care has been noted as a possible reason as well. Since many of the individuals live in small and isolated communities, health care options are limited.

Further studies will have to take place in order to narrow down the exact factors that cause the deadly disease, but this new research has helped take steps towards a promising future.