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 Dementia Symptoms Less Noticeable Among Latinos, Study Says

A new study suggests that it may be more difficult to detect Alzheimer’s disease (AD) in Hispanic patients. Researchers at Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, part of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that autopsies of patients diagnosed with AD when they were alive—and confirmed by autopsy—indicate several cognitive issues symptomatic of the condition are less noticeable in living Latino patients.

In the study, “Neuropsychological Deficit Profiles, Vascular Risk Factors, and Neuropathological Findings in Hispanic Older Adults with Autopsy-Confirmed Alzheimer’s Disease” in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Diseaseautopsies of 14 Hispanic and 20 non-Hispanic persons were reviewed, all with autopsy-confirmed physiological evidence of AD. An equal number of autopsies were reviewed of cognitively healthy Hispanic and non-Hispanic individuals without an AD finding.

The researchers reviewed patterns of neuropsychological deficits, vascular risk factors, and neuropathological differences between the Hispanic and non-Hispanic patients. The patients were matched by age, education, global mental status, and severity of functional decline at first diagnosis.

According to the results, mild-to-moderately affected Hispanic patients with AD were significantly less impaired than non-Hispanic patients with AD on measurements of memory, attention, and executive functioning.

In addition, the researchers found that Hispanics with AD showed greater small blood vessel disease in the brain than non-Hispanics with AD, as well as increased amyloid angiopathy, the accumulation of protein fragments in blood vessels associated with AD.

Because the data suggest it may be more difficult for clinicians to detect AD in its mild to moderate stages among living Latino patients compared with non-Latino patients, intervention and treatment could be delayed and less effective, the study said.

“Information from our study can help guide how we assess living Hispanic patients who may have Alzheimer’s, to more accurately detect the disease in its early stages,” says Helen Jarrett, chair of Alzheimer’s research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

As the number of Latinos in the United States grows, it will be vital that physicians and dementia clinicians use protocols that allow them to best assess the Latino demographic, the study said. This includes measures of AD detection that take into account possible effects of bilingualism, educational disparities, and cultural factors on neuropsychological procedures.

The findings are produced in collaboration with researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) and published in the January 2019 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

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