African Americans are the most at risk for developing Alzheimer's, study finds

A series of studies reported at the 2017 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London Sunday confirm that African Americans are one-and-a-half times more at risk than their counterparts or non-Hispanic whites for developing Alzheimer’s disease—an irreversible progressive brain disorder.

“We presented research that actually tells us that African Americans—even into their 90’s—are still one-and-a-half times more at risk than their counterparts and additionally, this may be attributable to living in disadvantaged neighborhoods or increased stressful life experiences,” Maria Carrillo, Ph.D., chief science officer at the Alzheimer’s Association (ALZ) tells FOX Business.

One of the studies, from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, found that a single major stressful event early life is equal to four years of cognitive aging. Additionally, they found that, on average, African Americans experience 60% more stressful events than non-Hispanic whites over the course of a lifetime.

A second study out of Northern California from health care company Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, Irvine, found that African Americans born in states with the highest levels of infant mortality had a 40% increased risk compared to whites not from those states in developing the disease.

“We’ve always known [stress] is not good for your brain, but now we are seeing that stressful situations even early in life are critical in addressing brain health. [It’s] a lifelong issue, not just something you need to think about towards middle age or later in life,” Carrillo adds.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in the U.S., there are about 5.5 million Americans living with the disorder and about 30 million globally. In the U.S., the disease costs around $260 billion annually and that number is set to reach $1.1. trillion by 2025.

The Alzheimer’s Association International Conference takes place each year to gather top researchers and doctors from around the world to share their latest research, theories, and discoveries in hopes of finding a cure or treatment.