Abstract and Keywords
Cognitive impairment associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is among the most common and debilitating conditions, and it poses a major public health problem. Projections indicate that the prevalence of cognitive impairment is expected to increase substantially in the next decade. This will be particularly true for minority populations, especially the older African American population, which is growing at an even more rapid pace than the older majority population. This chapter presents an overview of studies that have examined racial differences in cognitive aging. Studies have found consistent level differences in cognitive performance, with older African Americans tending to score lower on cognitive tests compared to similarly aged non-Hispanic Whites, even after adjusting for confounding factors such as education and socioeconomic status. Such findings have led to the proposal that African Americans are more likely to have cognitive impairment and are at greater risk of AD. The chapter presents critical challenges in comparing African Americans and Whites on cognitive function tests, and it discusses the utility of using longitudinal designs to compare the racial groups. It also discusses critical barriers to understanding of racial differences in the field and offers concrete actions that should be taken to move the field forward in this area.
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