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Latinos may experience slightly different signs and symptoms of dementia, with more depression and anxiety and a faster rate of functional decline than Blacks or non-Hispanic whites, according to new research presented at this year's Latinos and Alzheimer's Symposium, sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association.
Some findings are probably influenced by Hispanic social and cultural practices, investigators say. Others — particularly a marked increase in anxiety and depression when compared to Blacks and non-Hispanic whites — could be related to the disease process itself.
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But whatever their foundation, these differences deserve much more investigation, dementia researcher Andrew Zaman told AARP — especially considering that the number of Latinos living with Alzheimer's is projected to skyrocket in the next several decades, possibly growing 832 percent by the year 2060, a report from the University of Southern California and UsAgainstAlzheimer's shows.
Hispanics with dementia report more anxiety, depression
To better understand mood and anxiety problems in different populations dealing with dementia, Zaman, an adjunct instructor at the University of West Florida in Miami, and clinical psychologist Michael Cuccaro compared rates of anxiety and depression in about 5,000 people enrolled in a large genetics study.
They divided the group into Hispanics, Blacks and non-Hispanic whites, and then again by cognitive status: cognitively normal, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Then they looked at the rates of anxiety and depression in each group.
Overall, Hispanics reported more anxiety (25.6 percent) than either Blacks (16.3 percent) or non-Hispanic whites (11.3 percent). Hispanics with MCI or AD also reported more anxiety and depression than their peers with those disorders.
The study can't determine if the psychological findings are part of dementia progression or a reaction to the diagnosis, Zaman notes. But both anxiety and depression are well-known risk factors for dementia, and previous research has suggested they can be very early manifestations of abnormal protein accumulations in the brain, namely amyloid and tau.