At the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC; London, UK, 16–20 July 2017), we sat down with Megan Zuelsdorff, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (WI, USA), to hear more about her work on lifetime stress experiences, racial disparities and cognitive health.
Part of the Wisconsin Registry for Alzheimer’s Prevention (WRAP) Study, Megan and colleagues examined the impact of lifetime stressful experiences on cognition. They found that a greater number of stressful events was associated with poorer late-life cognitive function for all study participants. In addition, African Americans experienced over 60% more stressful events than non-Hispanic White participants during their lifetimes, and these experiences were linked to poorer memory and thinking skills in older age. The researchers determined that, in African Americans, each stressful experience was equivalent to approximately 4 years of cognitive aging.
In this interview, we hear more about the study and its implications: “Among African Americans in our study, adverse events across the lifespan predict cognitive function more strongly than established risk factors including age, education, and the APOE-e4 Alzheimer’s risk gene,” Megan said. “Adversity is a clear contributor to racial disparities in cognitive aging, and further study is imperative.”