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An African American elder engaged in reading, symbolizing wisdom and healthy aging, set against a backdrop of a modern research facility, highlighting the STAR study's dedication to dementia research in Black Americans.
A groundbreaking initiative to understand and combat brain aging disparities

By Darius Spearman (africanelements)

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Unveiling a new chapter in dementia research, STAR study extends to combat brain aging disparities in Black Americans.

A recent $24 million grant from the National Institute on Aging propels the Study of Healthy Aging in African Americans (STAR) into a crucial five-year extension (Kaiser Permanente Division of Research). This initiative, by Kaiser Permanente and UC Davis, shines a spotlight on dementia and healthy brain aging in Black Americans.

Background of the STAR Study

Launched in 2017, STAR tracks about 750 older Black adults in Northern California. Its mission: to identify dementia’s risk and protective factors, a condition impacting Black Americans disproportionately (UC Davis Health).

Research Methodology

Researchers meticulously analyze health data, dating back to the 1960s, from long-term Kaiser Permanente members. They utilize surveys, cognitive tests, and MRI scans to monitor brain health changes (EurekAlert!).

Key Findings and Insights

“Early life conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol correlate with poorer cognitive performance later,” notes Dr. Paola Gilsanz from Kaiser Permanente. Additionally, lifestyle choices such as regular reading and volunteering show potential protective effects on brain health (UC Davis Health).

“We are thrilled to continue this study for another five years so that we can further unravel what contributes to brain health and dementia risk in Black Americans,” said Dr. Rachel Whitmer, co-director of the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (EurekAlert!).

Broader Impact and Future Direction

This study’s extension marks a significant stride towards understanding and addressing brain health disparities. It aims to unveil pathways for mitigating cognitive impairments in Black Americans.

With its extended phase, the STAR study stands as a beacon of hope in the quest to understand dementia and promote healthy aging in the Black community.

About the author:

Darius Spearman is a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College, where he has been pursuing his love of teaching since 2007. He is the author of several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at