UNTHSC study questions relevance of established risk factors for mild cognitive impairment among Mexican American elders

November 15, 2013

 Sid-O'Bryant
Sid O’Bryant, PhD

Advancing age, rather than established risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension, appears to be the only consistent predictor for mild cognitive impairment among Mexican American elders, according to UNT Health Science Center researchers.

The report suggests that previously established risk factors among non-Hispanics may not be applicable for Mexican Americans, said Sid O’Bryant, PhD, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UNT Health Science Center and lead author of the study in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

“This means the disease may develop in Mexican Americans for different reasons than non-Hispanics,” he said.

Established risk factors such as gender, low education, obesity, diabetes and hypertension have previously been shown to be related to developing mild cognitive impairment, a transitional stage between normal aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of adults 65 and older suffer from MCI, with approximately 10 percent to15 percent of these patients progressing to Alzheimer’s disease annually.

In the analysis of data from 1,628 participants, the researchers found 20 percent of Mexican Americans and 19 percent of non-Hispanics were diagnosed with MCI. Although Mexican Americans had a similar overall incidence of MCI, this ethnic group developed cognitive dysfunction on average 10 years younger than non-Hispanic whites, which may be related to a greater incidence of co-morbid diseases such as diabetes.

“The differences point to the need for more specific personalized medicine to treat Mexican Americans,” Dr. O’Bryant said. “Ethnicity and race are important to how we treat a number of diseases, and Alzheimer’s is no different.”

Dr. Leigh Johnson, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine; Dr. James Hall, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health; Dr. Robert Barber, Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience; and Dr. Meharvan Singh, Chairman and Professor of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, also participated in the research.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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