Deconstructing racial differences: the effects of quality of education and cerebrovascular risk factors.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of vascular conditions and education quality on cognition over time in White and African American (AA) older adults. METHOD: We investigated cross-sectional and longitudinal racial differences in executive functioning (EF) and memory composites among Whites (n = 461) and AAs (n = 118) enrolled in a cohort study. We examined whether cerebrovascular risk factors and Shipley Vocabulary scores (a proxy for education quality) accounted for racial differences. RESULTS: On average, AAs had lower quality of education and more cerebrovascular risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. AAs had lower mean EF and memory at baseline, but there were no group differences in rates of decline. Cross-sectional racial differences in EF and memory persisted after controlling for vascular disease, but disappeared when controlling for Shipley Vocabulary. DISCUSSION: Quality of education appears to be more important than cerebrovascular risk factors in explaining cross-sectional differences in memory and EF performance between White and AA older adults. Further investigation is needed regarding the relative contribution of education quality and cerebrovascular risk factors to cognitive decline among ethnically/racially diverse older adults.
Carvalho, JO; Tommet, D; Crane, PK; Thomas, ML; Claxton, A; Habeck, C; Manly, JJ; Romero, HR
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