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Racial Minorites Face Increased Risk of Dementia

March 11, 2010
PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease
Image via Wikipedia

A study released this week has shown that racial minorities in the U.S. are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia than whites are, suggesting once again how powerful the link between social status and health can be.

When people write about intersectionality, it can seem impersonal: this force and that force intertwine to create oppressions that are at once worse and more complicated than they would be if only one factor were involved. For some of us, it easy to fall into a cold analysis that takes these forces as merely social things which are experienced abstractly and as if they were, ultimately, divisible from each other. But this is a mistake. To quote cripchick,

“intersectionality” is not simply the meeting place of single issue politics. it is something where pieces of our experiences are so intertwined and so entangled together that they cannot be pulled apart into strands.

Intersections live and grow in the body. Racism, poverty, and other oppressions make one more vulnerable to conditions, diseases, and accidents which can lead to disabilities. Then, in a society which does not fulfill the needs of the disabled, it falls to their relatives (most often, but not always, their female relatives) to meet those needs. And in a society not structured to allow that, the caretaker often ends up with a lower-paid job (if they can hold on to a job), and with that impoverishment, the knot adds another loop to its tangle.

This most recent study makes no claims about the causes of the increased risks for dementia in racial minorities, but it does note that they are unlikely to be genetic. What then are the likely causes?

The Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation lists four pillars for prevention:

  1. Diet and Vitamins
  2. Stress Management
  3. Exercise
  4. Pharmaceuticals

People living in impoverished neighborhoods, and who are more likely to be minorities, often lack access to a proper grocery store let alone a gym or expensive drugs. Racism, meanwhile, like all forms of oppression, increases stress levels.

Intersectionality lives inside the body because it is everywhere.

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  1. Christina Pacosz permalink
    March 11, 2010 11:56 am

    Poverty kills as does racism and its ills, including dementia.

    My mother was diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic. At one time this was a diagnosis linked to poverty/class and I imagine it still is.


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