Alzheimer’s study targets women, especially women of color

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, scientists are hoping to find out why it strikes more women than men and why women of color are at a higher risk.

A new one-of-a-kind clinic in Las Vegas is focusing on prevention to help women  delay Alzheimer’s or perhaps avoid it completely. Research shows about 40% percent of Alzheimer’s cases might be prevented if people knew what influenced their chances of getting the brain debilitating disease.

“The goal was to look at areas where we know Alzheimer’s has modifiable risks,” said Dr. Jessica Caldwell, Women’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Center.

Modifiable means opportunity to lower your chances. Doctor Jessica Caldwell, a neuropsychologist, says family history plays a big role in steering your course but women women have some distinctive and treatable causes for cognitive decline.

For example, losing estrogen during menopause, poor sleep habits, hearing loss, depression and stress from mid-life multitasking.

“Women at mid-life are doing a lot of different things. They’re probably taking care of young children or maybe teenagers. They’re maybe working, and they may also be caring for an aging parent,” Dr. Caldwell said.

And now the Women’s Alzheimer’s Prevention Center at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is helping women of all ages change their lifestyle behaviors now in a effort to lower the danger of getting Alzheimer’s later.

Caldwell says the program especially needs more women of color.

“Specifically, Black women have double the risk of white women for getting Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.

“It’s critical,” said Pam Shields who lost her mother to Alzheimer’s. “We don’t know what we don’t know and by going through these studies we learn more every year.

Shields was a caregiver to her mother who recently died with Alzheimer’s. She participates in research studies, educates the community about the disease, and says the cultural differences between women of various races is crucial to identifying their unique risks.

“If you look at the different segments of our population – the Hispanic, the Black population, the Caucasian population — all have different lifestyles. So, if you only target the lifestyle factors – social interaction, diet, education — with one segment of the population then you’re missing out on those others that you haven’t targeted,” Shields said.

“Decades ago in research they didn’t look at women with Alzheimer’s disease. Now if we do research and we include women, but only white women, I think that’s making the same type of mistake and we won’t be able to make as fast at understanding the disease if we only look at certain people,” Dr. Caldwell said.

Right now, the center is booking for mid-March of next year. They hope to see nearly 400 women over a three-year period. If you’re interested in applying to the clinic, visit this link. 

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