Research – American Indians and Alaska Natives 45+ Most Likely to Have Chronic Disease & Memory Issues

A national analysis of data found that American Indian and Alaska Native people age 45 and older who report experiencing “subjective cognitive NACDDChronic Disease and SubjectiveCDReportCoverdecline” were more likely than all other races to have at least one chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, or more. For Native people who don’t report memory issues, they still have the highest rates of chronic disease compared to other races. One quarter of people 45-64 who have memory issues also have three or more chronic diseases. This, according to the report from the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors.

Less than half of people with self reported memory issues have talked to their doctor.

Subjective cognitive decline is self reported memory issues that havegotten worse over the last year. It’s one of the first symptoms of more problematic memory issues like Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 1 in 6 American Indians 45 and older report subjective cognitive decline, and almost 2/3rds of those people have had to give up some of their day-to-day activities.

Memory Issues Don't Just Impact Elders - 1 in 6 American Indians and Alaska Natives age 45+ Report Worsening Memory Problems

Memory Issues Don’t Just Impact Elders – 1 in 6 American Indians and Alaska Natives age 45+ Report Worsening Memory Problems

The report notes that better managing problems like diabetes and heart disease may improve the quality of life for people 45 and older. It might also keep memory issues from getting worse at a faster rate. Some suggestions:

  1. Increase awareness about how important it is to manage chronic diseases, especially heart and blood pressure problems, for people who have early memory problems and at all stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s
  2. Elders and their family members are encouraged to talk to their doctors about memory issues during regular check ups
  3. Medicare offers Welcome to Medicare Visits and Annual Wellness Visits for people on Medicare that can help with both chronic disease and memory issues
  4. Doctors and healthcare providers like nurse practitioners need to understand the importance of managing chronic diseases and injuries to prevent memory problems from getting worse
  5. We meed to do more to help people learn how to reduce their chances of getting memory problems
  6. Caregivers with their own health issues like diabetes or heart problems can sign up for self-management programs to help learn how to better manage their health

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