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A study of nearly 31,000 patients of Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the United States reveals that African Americans and Latinos live, on average, longer than those of European or Asian descendants.

All of the participants  are Alzheimer’s disease patients: 82% were of European, Asian, or pure American Indian, 12% were African American, and 4% were Latino. They lived an average of 4.8 years after being diagnosed with the disease. Of the 3,000 autopsies performed the severity of the disease was similar among all of the ethnic groups.

Researchers are at a loss to explain why Latinos live approximately 40% longer and African Americans live an average of 15% longer than European, Asian, and American Indian descendants. One speculation offered is that it might have something to do with the level of social support provided by extended family.

Regardless of the reason for the differences of the survival rate for the various groups it is important to determine the underlying factors so everyone with Alzheimer’s disease can benefit. Researchers caution that that no conclusions should be drawn about the inherent health or fitness of any ethnic group involved.

The study appears in the November 14, 2007 issue of Neurology.

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