New Report Examines Racial Differences in Early Signs of Dementia

An estimated 6.5 million persons aged 65 years and over in the United States live with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common dementia. This number is projected to double by 2060, with African Americans projected to have among the largest increases.

A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds racial differences in subjective cognitive decline (SCD); the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent memory loss or confusion. SCD might be a symptom of early-stage dementia or future serious cognitive decline such as Alzheimer disease or a related dementia.

The study found that the prevalence of SCD during 2015–2020 was 9.6 percent among adults aged 45 years or older (5.0 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander adults, 9.3 percent of non-Hispanic White adults, and 10.1 percent of Black adults).

College education was associated with a lower prevalence of SCD among all racial and ethnic groups. Thus, the lower level of degree attainment for Black adults compared to White adults may be a contributing factor to higher rates of SCD and dementia in the Black population.

Only 47.3 percent of adults with SCD reported that they had discussed confusion or memory loss with a healthcare professional. Black men were significantly less likely to talk with a medical professional about SCD than was the case for Black women. Discussing changes in cognition with a physician can allow for the identification of potentially treatable conditions, early detection of dementia, promotion of dementia risk reduction behaviors, and establishing a treatment or care plan to help adults remain healthy and independent for as long as possible.

The full study, “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Subjective Cognitive Decline — United States, 2015–2020,” was published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It may be accessed here.

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