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Study to prevent Alzheimer's disease now enrolling patients in Tampa Bay area

Alzheimer's disease affects millions of people but disproportionately affects Black people. That's why researchers need to diversify their trial pools.

TAMPA, Fla. — Alzheimer's disease affects more than 6.2 million Americans. It's a devastating disease, watching loved ones slowly lose their memories and personality traits that make them so special and loved.

The disease touches so many families across the country, but data shows the disease disproportionately affects people of color.

According to research from the Alzheimer's Association, Black people are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and Hispanic people are about one and a half times more likely to develop it than their white counterparts.

Some studies show that socioeconomic risk factors, as well as other health issues more prevalent in communities of color — like high blood pressure and diabetes — can play a role in the development of the disease.

When it comes to treatment, researchers are pushing to diversify their clinical trial pools to create more comprehensive data and treatment options for all people. 

"Less than five percent of people in clinical trials are Black. What that means is that we don't know how medications might work in different populations with different risk factors," explained Dr. Doris Molina-Henry, Assistant Professor of Research Neurology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. 

Dr. Molina-Henry is also part of the scientific leadership of the recruitment section of the USC Alzheimer's Therapeutic Research Institute and is deeply involved in the recruitment activities of the AHEAD Study.

The AHEAD study is testing a treatment to see if it can prevent memory loss due to Alzheimer's disease. 

The University of South Florida is working with the study to enroll Tampa Bay locals. 

They're searching for people as young as 55 years old who are at risk of developing symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, but have not yet been diagnosed. Participants will take a series of tests, including a blood test.

"Either way, when the results come back, you'll learn something. You'll learn you are at risk and then you have the chance to address it early on, or you'll have peace of mind knowing you don't have risk factors," said Molina-Henry. 

Diversifying trials like the AHEAD trial benefits everyone who is impacted by the disease, as researchers will have more comprehensive data about how treatment works for different people. 

"This is the way we change things...This is the way we change the course of treatment for this disease and the future," said Molina-Henry.

You can learn more about how to participate in the study here.

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