By Dominique Fong
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2030, the number of Californians living with the disease will double to more than 1 million people.
For Asians, this number will triple to nearly 200,000.
The main reason? Simply because more Asians are living longer, according to Aaron Hagedorn, a USC professor of gerontology. The more milestone birthdays you celebrate, the higher the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Nearly half of people over age 85 have Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Experts attribute the alarming disparity to other factors such as a tendency toward health risks, a high-salt diet, genetic differences and environmental dangers. These are shaky conjectures at best, as researchers warn against making premature conclusions.
“Usually it’s yes or no, but in this case we just don’t know,” said Susan Howland, director of education at the Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
While researchers continue to study possible causes, most can agree that the origin of Alzheimer’s disease is likely a combination of reasons.
Even this projection is an underestimate. Entrenched cultural stigmas shame people who are perceived to have a mental illness or disease. Many Asian families delay seeking help, often waiting as far as eight to nine years after symptoms of Alzheimer’s first appear.
“There’s a low diagnosis rate because of language barriers, low literacy rates and lack of health insurance,” said Kami Holman, manager of Asian and Pacific Islander services and education at the Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.