TAMPA, Fla (Ivanhoe Newswire)— African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as older white Americans. Despite the increased risk, people of color are significantly underrepresented in clinical trials. More on a Super Bowl champ, Michael Clayton, who is using his voice to raise awareness of the health disparities and encourage others to actively support cutting- edge research.
Michael Clayton remembers vividly the feeling of winning a national college championship at LSU. Being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And after being released from the Bucs— winning Super Bowl XLVI with the Giants!
As vivid as these memories are now, will there be a day when Clayton doesn’t remember?
Clayton shared with Ivanhoe, “I’m pretty sure it’s going to happen.”
Clayton believes football head injuries may put him at higher risk for dementia. So does his family history. His grandparents Manny and Ethel both struggled with what he believes was Alzheimer’s.
“Deterioration starts to set in and you’re hearing these horror stories from Mom. The only thing I can do is advocate and talk about the deficiencies, and maybe the right people hear to make a difference,” Clayton expressed.
Amanda Smith, MD, Director of Clinical Research at USF Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute and professor.
in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine explained, “We know that there are a lot more people of color with Alzheimer’s disease than come to memory clinics or participate in clinical trials.”
It’s estimated that 90 percent of the participants in NIH funded trials are non-Hispanic whites. Health experts acknowledge a long-standing mistrust of the medical community but say minority participation is critical.
“To know that a treatment works in all people, we have to test it in all people,” Dr. Smith elaborated.
Michael Clayton says he is hopeful that researchers find more treatment options— sooner, rather than later.
“All that I can do is just enjoy the day to day, make the difference that I can make and if I do experience that then that’s God’s will not mine,” Clayton concluded.
Dr. Smith and other experts say mistrust of the medical community in the African American community dates back to abuses during the Tuskegee Syphilis Trials. Smith says clinical trials are carefully monitored, and participants can choose to withdraw at any time. People can find more information at www.clinicaltrials.gov, or the Alzheimer’s Association Trial Match at www.alz.org.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.
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TOPIC: FROM FOOTBALL STAR TO ALZHEIMER’S ADVOCATE: MICHAEL CLAYTON SPEAKS
REPORT: MB #4758
BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death for all Americans. In 2014, over 93,500 deaths across all 50 states and the District of Columbia occurred due to Alzheimer’s disease and it’s estimated that five million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. However, Alzheimer’s is actually not the sixth leading cause for African Americans, it’s the fourth. Also, African American seniors are two to three times more likely to have Alzheimer’s disease compared with caucasians. Scientists say there is an urgent need to promote informed decisions about Alzheimer’s and dementia-related preventative behavior in African American communities. There are currently organizations aiming to expand this pool of information to whomever may need it. This includes strategies such as offering cognitive screening opportunities, providing continuing education hours for nurses, social workers, and health care professionals, and spreading information about risk factors and early warning signs to larger communities.
DIAGNOSING: Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder meaning that it gets worse over time. It causes brain cells to degenerate and eventually die. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and continuously causes a decline of thinking, behavioral and social skills, and one’s ability to function independently. The early signs of the disease may be forgetting a recent series of events or the details of a conversation, but the most threatening thing about this disease is that it will eventually cause patients to forget their abilities to carry out everyday tasks. Current Alzheimer’s medications may relieve symptoms temporarily or slow the speed of the decline and allow patients to retain independence for a time. However, there is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s. In advanced stages of the disease, complications from severe loss of brain function such as dehydration, malnutrition, or infection can result in death. Some symptoms and signs include but are not limited to: repeating statements or questions over and over, forgetting full conversations, appointments or events, routinely misplacing possessions and putting them in illogical locations, getting lost in familiar places, forgetting the names of family and friends as well as everyday objects, trouble finding the right words to express thoughts. You may also notice changes in behavior such as depression, social withdrawal, apathy, mood swings, distrust, delusions, and aggressiveness or irritability.
MOVING FORWARD: There are many clinical trials currently underway studying Alzheimer’s prevention strategies. These include The Anti-Amyloid Treatment in Asymptomatic Alzheimer’s Disease (A4) Study examining the effectiveness of a drug intended to prevent cognitive decline in high-risk patients through early intervention. Another is Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer Network Trials Unit (DIAN-TU) that aims to study drugs that target a genetic mutation in certain Alzheimer’s patients, as well as The Alzheimer’s Prevention Initiative (API) which includes both the Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease (ADAD) trial and the Generation Study that also aims to target the genetic mutation of certain Alzheimer’s patients. There is a severe lack of volunteers for Alzheimer’s clinical trials and it’s one of the greatest obstacles in finding new treatments. If you are interested in participating in a current clinical trial, use Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch, a free, easy-to-use clinical studies-matching service that generates customized lists of studies based on user-provided information at
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