Researchers at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley plan to study the region’s usually high rates of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Dr. Gladys Maestre — director of the Memory Disorders Center at UTRGV — conducted research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in Venezuela.

“Latinos have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” Maestre said. “Not only more of Latinos get Alzheimer’s, but the disease starts about seven years earlier. So we are trying to understand: Why is this?”

Maestre plans to conduct similar research in the Valley.

“The people between 55 and 64 is the group that worries us the most because they have the highest rate of cardiovascular disease and they are at high risk of Alzheimer’s,” Maestre said.

Researchers plans to recruit about 2,500 participants.

Diet, exercise and other factors, including a lack of sleep, play a role in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.