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It’s not news that people of color, both Black African Americans as well as Hispanic Latinos, are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. What is new is that this added risk – largely attributed to a higher percentage of people living with underlying health issues including diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease – may also put them at higher risk for the Coronavirus.
Data released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment clearly shows that black African Americans are being diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus in numbers nearly double their proportion of the Colorado population: accounting for 7% of diagnosis and 6.8% of deaths versus 3.9% of the state’s population.
While Hispanics account for 21.7% of Colorado’s population, they equate to 28.1% of Coronavirus cases. The death rate, however, is lower at 17.7%.
While scientists are still trying to understand how the Coronavirus affects people and is transmitted, it is believed that the same “underlying health causes” that make black African Americans twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as their white counterparts (and Hispanics 50% more likely), may be at the root of the higher COVID-19 risk for these same people.
“Researchers believe that higher rates of vascular disease, which are more common among both Black African Americans and Hispanic Latinos, put them at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” said Amelia Schafer, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado.
One promising line of research suggests that strategies for overall healthy aging may help keep the brain healthy and may even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. These measures include eating a healthy diet, staying mentally active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, and exercising both the body and mind.
Research into the Coronavirus is still in its infancy, so it’s unknown if these lifestyle adjustments will have an impact on susceptibility to the virus. However, given the impact that Alzheimer’s has on the individual’s physical health, caution is urged for all individuals living with dementia in the current Coronavirus Pandemic.
“We encourage all of our community, both caregivers and those living with Alzheimer’s, to carefully follow the CDC’s guidelines on practicing social distancing and protecting yourselves from the virus,” said Schafer. “The best offense against this disease is a good defense – avoid being exposed to the virus.”
For more information about Alzheimer’s disease or services offered at no charge by the Alzheimer’s Association, call the free 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.
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The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado is the premier source of information and support for the more than 76,000 Coloradans with Alzheimer’s disease, their families and caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association offers education, counseling, support groups and a 24-hour Helpline at no charge to families. In addition, contributions help fund advancements in research to prevent, treat and eventually conquer this disease. The Alzheimer’s Association advocates for those living with Alzheimer’s and their families on related legislative issues, and with health and long-term care providers. For information call the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 bilingual Helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit www.alz.org/co.