On Wednesday, July 11, I attended Cafecito – an educational yet social meeting for participants in the Latino CORE, a longitudinal research study focused on health and aging within the Latino community. Study participants in Latino CORE are people who identify as Latinos or Hispanics who are age 65 years or older. They do not have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and are willing to donate blood samples annually. Currently, there are 202 participants with 161 women and 41 men. Out of 202 participants, 68 agreed to donate their brains to research after they pass away to better understand Alzheimer’s disease in Latinos.
A main priority of Cafecito was to thank the Latino CORE participants and let them know how crucial their participation is in aiding future research. The Coordinator for the Latino Core talked about the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and how it poses a huge challenge to older adults, families, and communities. The Coordinator also touched on the continued importance of possible brain donation in assisting researchers to find a cure and better treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Although brain donation was encouraged, there was never a hint of pressure from presenters to force the participants into signing up to be a donor. All Latino CORE participants should take their time to make and reflect on their own decisions especially regarding brain donation. Since the Latino CORE study group focuses only on Latinos, this part of the presentation also highlighted issues that may prevent Latinos from participating in research such as lack of awareness about studies.
Cafecito not only highlighted the Latino CORE and research in general, but it also featured a presentation about nutrition. Two nutritionists from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) delivered a very comprehensive and informational presentation. The nutritionists mostly focused on a diet that was created at Rush University Medical Center by Dr. Martha Clare Morris called the MIND Diet. The MIND Diet combines precise portions from both the Mediterranean Diet and the Dash Diet to help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. This is accomplished by not only focusing on brain health, but also heart health. Afterward, the Latino CORE participants were able to ask questions of the nutritionists especially about their favorite foods, ways of cooking, and diet.
Cafecito is not only informative to the Latino CORE study participants, but also to the general population who would not know what studies like these entail unless they attend an event such as this one. As the UIC nutritionists noted, if at-risk individuals delay Alzheimer’s disease by five years, it will cut down the prevalence of the disease in half. This shows how drastic a lifestyle shift will not only favor the individual’s health, but also the population’s health as a whole— the dream of Latino communities and beyond.