Hispanics and Dementia: A Potentially Greater Risk for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Hispanics and Dementia

Hispanics have higher rate of Alzheimer’s and dementia than general population

Hispanics may be at higher risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia than the general population. Hispanics and dementia will be the focus of a study by Rush University Medical Center. They are conducting what they call a focused CORE study of older Hispanics adults to learn why Alzheimer’s disease puts this population more at risk than other ethnic groups. The study will concentrate on Hispanic adults who are 65-years-old or older and have not been diagnosed with any kind of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.  Hispanics with dementia will not be eligible to participate.

Annual visits to the home of the persons being studied, conducted in English or Spanish, will include a memory exam, blood work, and questions about general health and lifestyles. Participants will also be asked whether they would like to donate organs when they die so brain autopsies can be performed.

These study visits are neither doctors visits or wellness exams but are specific to the study of Alzheimer’s disease in older Hispanics.

Pioneering work at Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center

Dr. David X. Marquez leads the team of investigators at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center (RADC). He says the study is needed because of evidence that Hispanics have a higher risk of developing dementia than other groups and experience earlier onset of Alzheimer’s also. As many in this population do, memory faults are often ascribed to “just getting old”, and economic and language factors sometimes keep them from visiting a doctor for such symptoms.

Hispanics in the Chicago land area are mostly of Mexican derivation. This group will be the primary focus of the study, making the study sample fairly homogeneous.

The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Core Center has a grant from the National Institute on Aging (National Institutes of Health), which funds 29 such centers in the United States. The RADC investigative team, led by Dr. Marquez, also studies other minorities in relation to Alzheimer’s, including religious orders and African Americans.

Hispanics and dementia: Lack of exercise may be factor in greater risk Hispanics face

Dr. Marquez has studied Hispanics, who form the largest ethnic minority in the United States, for more than a decade. In 2006 he was an author of a paper in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine,“Social Cognitive Correlates of Leisure Time Physical Activity Among Latinos.” He found that Hispanics exercise and engage in leisure time physical activity less than other groups. Even Hispanics who have heard information that exercise and physical activity benefit their health, engage in these activities less than other groups.

Dr. Marquez’s study tried to find answers and found that since Hispanics tend to be a collective culture, valuing the whole over the individual, social support for exercise is a major factor. He found that while friends tend to support others in physical activity, family members do not. Self-efficacy–the belief that one can act and change things about one’s life–is a major factor in whether an individual, no matter what group he or she belongs to, engages in physical activity for his or her own benefit. Dr. Marquez attempted to find interventions that raise physical activity levels in Hispanic communities. His work on psychosocial and self-efficacy enhancements as possibilities is vital to the understanding of Hispanics and dementia.

Given what we now know about the beneficial effects of physical activity on the brain, it is possible that the low exercise rates Dr. Marquez found play a role in the higher rate of Alzheimer’s in this group.

Hispanics are a large and growing population

The Hispanic population is the largest and the fastest growing minority group. This means that in addition to suffering from these diseases, their health factors have a big public health impact. Unfortunately, they have poorer health outcomes in several ways. Exercise is not a panacea but, combined with proper diet, is about as close as scientists have come to a preventive cure-all.  Through this study of Hispanics and dementia, we may know much more about any connections between the two.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Hispanics with Alzheimer’s number about 200,000 presently and is projected to reach over one million by 2050. If interventions promoting better health practices and more physical activity can help, it will have a great impact on this important segment of the United States population and on public health in general.


Marquez, D. X., McAuley, E. (June 2006). Social Cognitive Correlates of Leisure Time Physical Activity Among Latinos. Journal of Behavioral Medicine,29 (3).

DOI: 10.1007/s10865-006-9055-6. Available at

http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/31052909/_Marquez__Social_cognitive_correlates_of_leisure_time_physical_activity_among_latinos.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1490374414&Signature=bq7kgc25DxJgFI7L%2BkG2DaGsXSU%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DSocial_cognitive_correlates_of_leisure_t.pdf. Accessed March 23, 2017.

Rush University Medical Center. Latino CORE Study. Available at

https://www.rush.edu/services-conditions/alzheimers-disease-center/radc-research/latino-core-study-rush-alzheimers. Accessed March 24, 2017.

Rush University Medical Center. New Study to Document Alzheimer’s Disease Risk Factors in Latinos. Available at

https://www.rushu.rush.edu/news/new-study-document-alzheimer%E2%80%99s-disease-risk-factors-latinos. Accessed March 23, 2017.

Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Available at https://www.rush.edu/services/alzheimers-disease-center. Accessed March 23, 2017.

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