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Dementia risk in South Asians: data from the UK

Dementia risk in South Asians: data from the UK

Principal Investigator: Dr Naaheed Mukadam
Approved Research ID: 40055
Approval date: September 25th 2018

Lay summary

Dementia causes a decline in brain functioning so that people become unable to do the things they previously could. It becomes more common as people become older, so as the world’s population ages, the number of people with dementia increases. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s dementia and its risk is increased in older people who have a particular gene called APOE E4. There are other genes that also increase the risk of dementia but much less than APOE E4. The risk of dementia also increases with environmental risk factors, such as health conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure or with smoking. Although there has been a lot of research  considering these environmental and genetic risk factors in people of European origin, there has been very little examining whether the environmental risk factors have the same effect in people from different ethnic backgrounds. They might not, as heart risk factors have different effects on the risk of stroke and heart disease in varying ethnicities and the gene APOE E4 may be less or more common in different populations.

I am interested in finding out whether people from different ethnic backgrounds have differing levels of dementia risk from environmental and genetic risk factors. I will focus on South Asian people, that is people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; comprising the largest non-White ethnic group in the UK.

I would use Biobank data to compare the frequency of APOE E4 and other known genetic variations relevant for dementia risk between White British and South Asian participants in UK Biobank participants. I will use it to compare the frequency of different risk factors, such as a diagnosis of diabetes and high blood pressure in South Asian people and White British people and how much each of those risk factors increases a person’s risk of dementia and whether this differs in different ethnic groups. Doing this research is important because very little is known about how dementia develops in minority ethnic groups. It may help to understand more about dementia in the general population and to find new ways of preventing or treating dementia.