Risk Factors Associated With Alzheimer Disease and Related Dementias by Sex and Race and Ethnicity in the US

JAMA Neurol. 2022 Jun 1;79(6):584-591. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.0976.


Importance: Previous estimates suggested that 1 in 3 cases of Alzheimer disease and related dementia (ADRDs) in the US are associated with modifiable risk factors, the most prominent being physical inactivity, depression, and smoking. However, these estimates do not account for changes in risk factor prevalence over the past decade and do not consider potential differences by sex or race and ethnicity.

Objective: To update estimates of the proportion of ADRDs in the US that are associated with modifiable risk factors and to assess for differences by sex and race and ethnicity.

Design, setting, and participants: For this cross-sectional study, risk factor prevalence and communality were obtained from the nationally representative US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey data from January 2018 to December 2018, and relative risks for each risk factor were extracted from meta-analyses. Data were analyzed from December 2020 to August 2021. Respondents included 378 615 noninstitutionalized adults older than 18 years. The number before exclusion was 402 410. Approximately 23 795 (~6%) had missing values on at least 1 of the variables of interest.

Exposures: Physical inactivity, current smoking, depression, low education, diabetes, midlife obesity, midlife hypertension, and hearing loss.

Main outcomes and measures: Individual and combined population-attributable risks (PARs) associated with ADRDs, accounting for nonindependence between risk factors.

Results: Among 378 615 individuals, 171 161 (weighted 48.7%) were male, and 134 693 (weighted 21.1%) were 65 years and older. Race and ethnicity data were self-reported and defined by the US Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data; 6671 participants (weighted 0.9%) were American Indian and Alaska Native, 8043 (weighted 5.1%) were Asian, 29 956 (weighted 11.7%) were Black, 28 042 (weighted 16.0%) were Hispanic (any race), and 294 394 (weighted 64.3%) were White. Approximately 1 in 3 of ADRD cases (36.9%) in the US were associated with 8 modifiable risk factors, the most prominent of which were midlife obesity (17.7%; 95% CI, 17.5-18.0), physical inactivity (11.8%; 95% CI, 11.7-11.9), and low educational attainment (11.7%; 95% CI, 11.5-12.0). Combined PARs were higher in men (35.9%) than women (30.1%) and differed by race and ethnicity: American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, 39%; Asian individuals, 16%; Black individuals, 40%; Hispanic individuals (any race), 34%; and White individuals, 29%. The most prominent modifiable risk factors regardless of sex were midlife obesity for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, Black individuals, and White individuals; low education for Hispanic individuals; and physical inactivity for Asian individuals.

Conclusions and relevance: The findings suggest that risk factors associated with ADRDs have changed over the past decade and differ based on sex and race and ethnicity. Alzheimer risk reduction strategies may be more effective if they target higher-risk groups and consider current risk factor profiles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alzheimer Disease* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology