Racial Discrimination in Midlife Linked to Biomarkers of Alzheimer’s Disease


Black Americans who experience racial discrimination during midlife are more likely to have blood biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published on April 10 in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

“Black Americans have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias compared to non-Hispanic white Americans, but we still don’t fully understand the factors that contribute to this disproportionate risk,” says coauthor Michelle Mielke, PhD, professor of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Research has shown that Black Americans are roughly 1.5 to 2 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other related types of dementia.

You’re not being ‘too sensitive.’ This is a real thing, and it can contribute to real damage to the brain.

— Negar Fani, PhD

Although that difference is likely caused by a variety of different reasons, including genetic factors and a higher rate of other diseases that impact brain health (such as heart disease), many experts believe that exposure to racism and the acute and chronic stress that causes may be a key driver of the disparity.

“The study provides compelling evidence of how racial discrimination is contributing to health disparities and further validates the importance of racism as a problem on a global public health level,” says Negar Fani, PhD, neuropsychologist and associate professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, who was not involved in this study. Dr. Fani conducts research on trauma, including racial trauma, and accessible interventions for trauma-related problems.

“Hopefully the findings are also validating to Black Americans and other minoritized communities who sometimes experience self-doubt about what they’ve experienced and how it impacts them,” says Fani.

“You’re not being ‘too sensitive.’ This is a real thing, and it can contribute to real damage to the brain,” she says.


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