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Study shows Hispanics develop memory problems 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics
By: Stephanie Guadian
EL PASO, Texas - Manuel Chavez went missing twice in one month. The 61-year-old Borderland man suffers from Alzheimer's disease and simply wandered off. He is among the growing population of Hispanics with memory problems.
Dr. Sid O Bryant is an associate professor of internal medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. He is among the authors of a new study that revealed a disturbing trend.
On average, the age of onset of memory loss was much younger among Mexican-Americans. It was in the 50s, said Dr. O Bryant.
He and his research team found some of the risk factors for memory loss among Hispanics may be different from those of
non-Hispanics. Those include depression, a lack of education and diabetes.
Diet and exercise is a very big thing because that metabolic disturbance often times is due to diabetes, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and things like that as well as hypertension and cholesterol problems, said O Bryant.
Part of the problem is cultural. Some Hispanics shy away or can't afford doctors and medical treatment.
Susie Vargas is an associate director for El Paso's Alzheimer's Association. Her mother was 50 when she first started to show signs of memory problems.
It's important to talk about what we are noticing about our loved ones, said Vargas.
Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease include: difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, new problems with words in speaking or writing and misplacing things.
If you forget where you put your keys and you cannot go back and retrace your steps, that's a problem, said Vargas.
The study's authors said it's important for members of the Hispanic community to encourage education, prevent diabetes and see a doctor on a regular basis.
Don't be embarrassed to talk about it. There is help. You are not alone. You are not the only one, said Vargas.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Hispanics are believed to be one-and-a-half times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease compared to non-Hispanics. They are also often diagnosed later.
More information about memory loss and Alzheimers disease can be found at www.alz.org.