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Keywords:

  • dementia;
  • diabetes mellitus;
  • genetics;
  • Mexican;
  • stroke

OBJECTIVES: To estimate dementia prevalence in older Mexican Americans, determine the distribution of dementia by etiology, and evaluate the contribution of type 2 diabetes mellitus, stroke, and apolipoprotein E (ApoE) genotype to dementia.

DESIGN: Analysis of baseline data from an epidemiological cohort study.

SETTING: Sacramento Valley, California.

PARTICIPANTS: One thousand seven hundred eighty-nine Latinos aged 60 and older residing in targeted census tracts during 1998–99.

MEASUREMENTS: Each subject was interviewed and screened for dementia and cardiovascular risk factors and diseases. Fasting blood samples were drawn for glucose, insulin, and lipids. Buccal cells were obtained for genetic analysis of ApoE. A three-stage process of screening was used to diagnose dementia, including cognitive testing, a clinical examination, and imaging to determine etiology. Presence of dementia was established according to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke/Alzheimers and Related Disorders Association criteria and California Alzheimer's Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Criteria.

RESULTS: Overall dementia prevalence was 4.8%. Prevalence in those aged 85 and older was 31%. Education and Anglo cultural orientation was negatively associated with dementia risk. Risk of dementia was nearly eight times higher in those with both type 2 diabetes mellitus and stroke. Forty-three percent of dementia was attributable to type 2 diabetes mellitus, stroke, or a combination of the two. ApoE allele frequency was E2 5.9%, E3 90.1%, and E4 4%. Those with any E4 and 4–4 combinations had a higher risk for dementia than those with the E3–3 combination.

CONCLUSIONS: Dementia prevalence in this ethnic group is similar to that reported in Canadian and European studies but lower than in Caribbean-Hispanics residing in the United States. The etiological fraction of dementia attributable to type 2 diabetes mellitus and stroke is substantial and points toward the need for intervention research and treatment with the goal of reducing neurological sequelae in groups with high prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The allele frequency of ApoE was similar to that in other published studies on Mexican Americans. The low frequency of the E4 allele may contribute to the difference in etiology of dementia in older Mexican Americans and older people of European background. Dementia in this ethnic group may be related to preventable causes, with a smaller genetic component than in Europeans.