General FAQ

Facts You Should Know About Alzheimer's and Dementia

This article was featured in The Madison Times on February 10, 2011
by Charlie Daniel, Minority Outreach Coordinator
Alzheimer's and Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center

Are you or someone in your family worried about memory loss? Do you know the difference between dementia, Alzheimer’s, or just plain forgetfulness? What is truth and what is myth about dementia and Alzheimer’s?

Some facts you should know:

Memory changes are common as we age. However, memory loss that starts to affect daily life may be a sign of dementia. Dementia is a decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills that get worse over time. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

When Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia touches the lives in the African-American community, it is a SILENT EPIDEMIC.

Aging and risk

Alzheimer’s disease is typically a disease of the aging, and the African-American elder population is growing. By the year 2030:

  • African Americans age 65 and over will more than double to 6.9 million.
  • Those over age 85 will jump to 638,000.
  • Currently, about 12 percent of the total population over the age of 65 and almost 50 percent of those over age 85 have Alzheimer’s.

Prevalence and ethnicity

Alzheimer’s disease is more prevalent among African Americans than among Whites. Older African Americans are about two times more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

Fact sheet: African Americans and Alzheimer’s disease

African Americans have a higher rate of vascular disease (high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke) and of type 2 diabetes, both of which are likely risk factors for Alzheimer’s.

Why a silent epidemic?

Alzheimer’s is under-reported in the African-American community. Although African Americans are more likely than Whites to have Alzheimer’s, they are less likely to be diagnosed. Because early diagnosis and treatment in the African-American community are lacking, they are often diagnosed at a much later stage.

An early diagnosis is extremely important. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are strategies and treatments throughout the course of the disease that can help maximize the quality of life for all affected.