Story by Crystal Chavez
Fronteras Desk

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As demographics change across the nation, there's growing concern about Alzheimer's disease among Mexican-Americans, a population that continues to age.

More than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease. But by 2050, the nonprofit Alzheimer's Association says up to 16 million people will have the disease. The prevalence for Alzheimer's increases with age and there is no cure for it right now.

"As the population of the United States both ages and turns more Hispanic, then the number of cases of Mexican-American Alzheimer's patients is likely to grow," said Dr. Donald Royall of the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a syndrome that affects mental capacity to the point of interfering with daily life.

Royall said the prevalence of dementia is higher in Mexican Americans, but he said dementia in Mexican Americans may be caused by factors other than Alzheimer's.

"There's a lot of reason to suspect Mexican Americans may be experiencing a lot of other causes of dementia like vascular dementia, diabetes can affect cognition, depression can affect cognition," he said. "And the rates of all those problems are higher in Mexican Americans."

Royall said researchers are trying to find ways to diagnose dementia very early on. That way interventions, such as lifestyle changes or medications, could be taken to delay the onset and help with the symptoms.

But he said factors such as language, culture and education can make diagnosing dementia more difficult when it comes to minority patients.