Last Updated: 2007-11-14 16:00:31 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Latino and African American individuals with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) seem to live longer than their white counterparts, according to a study of patients seen at 30 US Alzheimer’s disease centers.

"These findings were not explained by patient age, sex, educational level, marital status, living situation, and cognitive test score measured at their first evaluation at the Alzheimer’s disease center," note the researchers in the November 14 online issue of Neurology.

"It’s not clear why Latinos and African Americans have an advantage when it comes to living longer with Alzheimer’s disease," first author Dr. Kala M. Mehta, of the University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement. "Possible explanations may be underlying genetic or cultural factors."

Of the 30,916 men and women with AD in the study, 81% were white, 12% were African American, 4% were Latino, 1.5% were Asian and 0.5% were American Indian. They were followed for an average of 2.4 years and survived for an average of 4.8 years after being diagnosed with AD. Autopsies were performed on 3,000 of the participants.

Compared with white patients, the adjusted hazard ratio for mortality was lower in Latino and African American patients (HR, 0.85 and 0.57, respectively), Dr. Mehta and colleagues report. Asians and American Indians had similar hazards for mortality as white AD patients.

"African American and Latino autopsied AD patients had similar neuropathologic characteristics compared with white AD patients with similar clinical severity," the investigators note.

"Determining the underlying factors behind this difference could lead to longer survival for everyone with Alzheimer’s disease," Dr. Mehta stated. "Regardless of the reason for this difference, these findings may have implications for health care planning for people with Alzheimer’s disease," she added.

Neurology 2007.