Brain Aging May Start Earlier for Black People, Study Finds

By Rob Dillard - Last Updated: November 18, 2022

A study assessed ethnic and racial disparities in brain aging. The findings, published in JAMA Neurology, showed that in Latin and White adults, brain aging is greater later in life. In Black adults, brain aging is more accelerated starting in midlife.

In this cross-sectional study, researchers analyzed data from 2 community-based studies, the Washington Heights-Inwood Columbia Aging Project (WHICAP) and the Offspring Study of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Alzheimer Disease (Offspring). In total, the study included 1467 participants, 497 from Offspring (23.5% Black, 70% Latinx, 6.4% White) and 970 from WHICAP (34.8% Black, 40.1% Latin, 25.1% White). The primary outcomes were defined as cortical thickness in Alzheimer disease-related regions and white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume.

Overall, the study found that Black-White disparities were larger than Latinx-White disparities for cortical thickness and WMH volume. The researchers noted that brain aging, or the association of age with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) measures, was more pronounced in late life compared with midlife for Latinx participants (cortical thickness: B=0.006; 95% CI, 0.004-0.008; P<.001; WMH volume: B= −0.010; 95% CI, −0.018 to −0.001; P=.03) and White participants (cortical thickness: B=0.005; 95% CI, 0.002-0.008; P=.001; WMH volume: B= −0.021; 95% CI, −0.043 to 0.002; P=.07) but not Black participants (cortical thickness: B=0.001; 95% CI, −0.002 to 0.004; P =.64; WMH volume: B=0.003; 95% CI, −0.010 to 0.017; P=.61). According to the researchers, Black participants “evidenced a similarly strong association between age and MRI measures in midlife and late life.”

“In this study, racial and ethnic disparities in small vessel cerebrovascular disease were apparent in midlife. In Latinx and White adults, brain aging was more pronounced in late life than midlife, whereas Black adults showed accelerated pattern of brain aging beginning in midlife,” the researchers concluded.

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