COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH/The Hill)– One in 10 Americans 65 and older have dementia, and that number is even higher among Black and Hispanic people, according to a study published Monday by The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“That’s probably one of the most important parts of this study that I found,” Dr. Douglas Scharre from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center said about the increased prevalence of dementia in ethnic minority groups in the United States.

“The take-home there that I see is that we really need to continue to concentrate on getting minorities of all types, but African Americans and Hispanics in particular, into clinical trials so we can figure out why is [there] that difference? Is it just related to economics? Is it related to education level? Is it related to diet [and] exercise? Is it related to not going to the doctor as often as Caucasians? So we really need to find out why that way, we can find out better ways to help the population to get treated earlier,” he continued

Low education has been flagged as a risk factor for dementia, along with other social determinants of health such as poverty, limited access to nutritious food, and fewer opportunities for exercise, The Hill reports. Other risk factors include obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Scharre, professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry and director of the Division of Cognitive Neurology and Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders at the Wexner Medical Center, explained that there are hundreds of different causes of dementia with Alzheimer’s being the most common cause. He says early detection is key.

“Get into your primary care doctor as soon as possible. Because, yes, if it gets to the more severe stages, you can’t do much about it. You have fewer options. You have many more options for better outcomes if you catch it early, just pretty much like any other medical condition.” he said. “We have a lot of things we can do: We can exercise; we can change our diet; we can reduce diabetes and high blood pressure leading to strokes. Many, many things, but people just need to act on it soon.”

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, symptoms of dementia can vary and may include:

  • Experiencing memory loss, poor judgment, and confusion
  • Difficulty speaking, understanding and expressing thoughts, or reading and writing
  • Wandering and getting lost in a familiar neighborhood
  • Trouble handling money responsibly and paying bills
  • Repeating questions
  • Using unusual words to refer to familiar objects
  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
  • Losing interest in normal daily activities or events
  • Hallucinating or experiencing delusions or paranoia
  • Acting impulsively
  • Not caring about other people’s feelings
  • Losing balance and problems with movement

Dr. Scharre also noted the study showed that at age played a major role in the study’s findings with about 3% of the population having dementia at age 65. That number shot up to around 35% at age 90, he explained.

The study released Monday surveyed 3,496 individuals aged 65 and older who participated in the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, supported by the National Institute on Aging and the Social Security Administration. It was conducted between 2016 and 2017 by a group of researchers at Columbia University, Brown University and the University of Michigan.