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Grants Will Fund Studies of Dementia Risk

Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences’ Division of Epidemiology, is one of the recipients of two multi-institution RO1 grants from the National Institute on Aging funding studies of different aspects of the risk of dementia.

Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Ph.D.

The first, shared with co-PI Maria Glymour, Sc.D., M.S., associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, is a $1.7 million grant for a four-year study titled “A Binational Study to Understand Dementia Risk and Disparities of Mexican-Americans: The Role of Migration and Social Determinants.”

“Mexican-Americans unexpectedly have an incidence and prevalence of dementia that is similar to that of their non-Latino white counterparts, despite the fact that the non-Latinos have, on average, much higher education levels and overall socioeconomic status,” said Zeki Al Hazzouri. “Low dementia risk among Mexican-Americans may occur because people who migrate from Mexico are healthier than people who do not migrate, and older Mexican-Americans leave the U.S. and return to Mexico if they become sick.

“To better understand what causes dementia in Mexican-Americans and dementia disparities, we must account for these migration patterns and their correlation with dementia risk. Addressing such research questions requires data from both the U.S. and Mexico. In our study, we will create a binational study of two nationally representative cohorts from the US and Mexico to learn the influences of migration and other factors on dementia risk. We believe that this study will provide information on disparities in dementia risk between Mexican-Americans and non-Latino whites, as well as novel insights into the role of key social factors in determining dementia risk that are relevant for Mexican-Americans and other groups disproportionately exposed to socioeconomic disadvantage.”

The second, shared with co-PI Kristine Yaffe, M.D., professor of psychiatry, neurology and epidemiology, also at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, is a $1.9 million grant for another four-year study, this one titled “Healthy Heart, Healthy Brain? A Pooled Life-course Cohort for Dementia Risk Assessment.”

“Neurodegenerative processes leading to dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease, begin long before clinical features become apparent,” said Zeki Al Hazzouri. “Several lines of evidence suggest that cardiovascular risk factor reduction may be one of the most viable strategies to modify the course of the preclinical phase. However, evidence about the timing and influence of cardiovascular exposures on cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease is controversial, supporting the need for a life-course approach.

“By creating a pooled cohort from several pooled epidemiological studies that span the adult life-course, we will be well-positioned to investigate the association between cardiovascular risk exposure and cognitive aging and Alzheimer’s disease, and how it may differ by race, sex and timing. Understanding how modifications of these exposures may reduce the burden of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease is critical for public health.”

Tags: Adina Zeki Al Hazzouri, Miller School of Medicine, National Institute on Aging, University of Miami