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2016 Grants - White
Racial Disparities in Cognitive Outcomes: The Role of Multimorbidity
Kellee White, Ph.D.
University of South Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
2016 Alzheimer’s Association Research Grant to Promote Diversity (AARG-D)
Does the presence of multiple chronic medical conditions contribute to the risk of Alzheimer’s disease?
More than half of all middle-aged and older adults experience multimorbidity, which is the co-occurrence of two more chronic medical conditions. The most common conditions that contribute to multimorbidity, including diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, are established risk factors for cognitive decline. It is possible that the combined impact of multiple conditions could synergistically accelerate the risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Multimorbidity tends to have an earlier onset and greater severity in older African Americans when compared to age-matched non-Hispanic whites. In addition, African-Americans are more likely to develop late-onset Alzheimer’s than non-Hispanic whites, and are at increased risk for cognitive impairment during aging. While growing evidence suggests that multimorbidity may impact cognitive decline, few studies have explored this association in a diverse population.
Kellee White, Ph.D. and colleagues will analyze data from thousands of participants in the large Health and Retirement Study to better understand the association between multiple chronic conditions and cognitive disorders. The researchers will use statistical methods to weigh the impact of multimorbidity on changes in memory function and dementia risk, and identify factors which may contribute to racial disparities in cognitive outcomes. Dr. White hopes to identify chronic diseases that have the greatest impact on cognitive decline in people with multimorbidity.
Results from this study may improve our understanding of which chronic medical conditions, or combination of conditions, may increase a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Identifying racial differences in the factors that increase risk for cognitive decline could help identify targets for interventions to slow disease progression in specific populations. Better management of chronic conditions may offer the potential to reduce the risk of cognitive decline among all individuals with multimorbidity.