BY PAULA ATKINSON, GUEST WRITER TO THE TIMES
My grandmother was treated for Alzheimer’s disease, but never diagnosed with it. Why? She was told by her doctor that it would take too long to accurately diagnose her. This experience is repeated time after time across the Black community, where we are 35 percent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, Black people are two times more at risk for developing Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites. This silent epidemic of Alzheimer’s is disproportionately ravaging our community – and it’s well past time for action.
Want more proof? About 14 percent of Black people in America over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, compared with 10 percent of non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And since we know that African Americans are less likely to be correctly diagnosed, that disparity is likely much higher.
Last year, at a global Alzheimer’s conference, an Alzheimer’s Association report confirmed that people who experience chronic racism have lower memory scores and worse cognition. While this is true for Latinos, the report notes that Black people are most likely to experience racism at all levels, including structural, interpersonal and institutional. The effect of these experiences adds to the stress of daily living, takes years off a person’s life, and contributes to cognitive decline.
Knowing these systemic factors, and my personal connection to the disease, I became a Community Connector at the Global Alzheimer’s Platform Foundation (GAP). GAP is working to address these issues in communities throughout the U.S., and I am committed to arming people with information so that they can take their health into their hands.
For example, did you know that participating in a clinical research trial means you may gain access to potential treatments that help slow cognitive decline? Despite the opportunity for life-improving treatments, a mere 2 to 6 percent of people who are Black or Latino participate in Alzheimer’s research trials.
One of the most important things we do at GAP is to support the work of researchers and clinics through clinical research trials. Right now, K2 Medical Research in Maitland is enrolling volunteers for an Alzheimer’s clinical research study that could advance understanding of the disease and increase the availability of a potential new treatment to slow cognitive decline.
K2 Medical Research, which is a part of GAP-Net, the GAP network of research sites, is intentionally working to enroll volunteers from underrepresented communities in and around Orlando. GAP-Net sites benefit from sharing knowledge and experience to advance research about Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative conditions.
Recently, new treatments have brought more hope to the Alzheimer’s community. By continuing to include more Black and brown people in clinical research, we will make more advancements that serve more people. That’s exactly what this study is about. We all want better access to healthcare and treatment.
If you or a loved one is between the ages of 65 and 80, have mild Alzheimer’s or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), then signing up to participate in a study, especially if you’re a person of color, is a real concrete way to take a step in that direction.
People interested in learning more can call (407) 500-5252 or visit https://k2medicalresearchform.com.