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Hispanic Heritage Month: Why an Austin local walks to end Alzheimer's

During Hispanic Heritage Month, an Austin resident wants to spread awareness to local Latinos about Alzheimer's and dementia.

AUSTIN, Texas — During Hispanic Heritage Month, the Alzheimer’s Association is highlighting inspiring stories and contributions from Hispanic individuals.

One Austinite is committed to the fight to end Alzheimer’s and dementia. Rafael Ayuso has channeled his passion into becoming a walk committee member for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Austin. 

Ayuso is a recently retired career communicator for AARP. He saw firsthand the impact that Alzheimer’s and dementia had on those he helped serve. More personally, Alzheimer’s and dementia affected his own mother, as well as his neighbors and friends.

"I was surrounded by this issue. And now that I'm retired, I have a little bit more time than I used to have. So I'm trying to contribute whatever I can to this cause," said Ayuso. 

In addition to serving on this year’s committee, he also organized his own walk team to help raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and related dementia among the Hispanic community.

“I’m walking this year to honor the memory of my dear mother who passed away years ago after battling a related form of dementia called Lewy body disease. There’s lots of exciting research going on at the moment in the scientific community in this field that we hope will one day soon lead to a cure. The walk is a perfect opportunity to raise awareness and the funding needed to help us reach that promised land,” said Ayuso. 

Ayuso emphasizes that as the Hispanic population grows and ages, it’s important to get the word out to help Latinos make informed decisions about their loved ones, including how to understand the warning signs, how to make lifestyle decisions that can improve outcomes and how to get the necessary support to become better caregivers.

  • Hispanic Americans are about 1.5 times more likely to have Alzheimer’s and other dementia than older white Americans.
  • Despite their increased risk, Hispanics are underrepresented in clinical trials. Without appropriate participation by Hispanic Americans and other underrepresented groups in Alzheimer’s clinical trials and research, it is impossible to get a complete understanding of how racial and ethnic differences may affect the efficacy and safety of potential new treatments.
  • By 2050, the number of Hispanic elders with Alzheimer’s or other dementias could increase more than six-fold, from nearly 200,000 today to as many as 1.3 million.
  • Hispanics are more likely to be diagnosed in the later stages of the disease when individuals are more cognitively and physically impaired – and therefore need more medical care.

As the largest fundraiser for Alzheimer’s care, support and research, Walk to End Alzheimer’s mobilizes millions of Americans in the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2021, nearly 48,000 teams participated in more than 600 walks across the country, raising more than $67 million.

In Texas, more than 400,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s and more than 1,085,000 family members and friends are serving as caregivers.

The 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer's event will be held on Nov. 12 at the Circuit of the Americas.

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