National Study on Stroke Rates
In the first national study comparing stroke rates between African Americans and whites, researchers find that African Americans are more likely to suffer from and die from strokes than whites.
Using over 26,000 participants over the age of 45 from throughout the United States, researcher Virginia J Howard, PhD and University of Alabama School of Public Health's associate professor of epidemiology, sought to explain through the study why African Americans are more likely than whites to die from a stroke.
The study followed a group of people enrolled in the REGARDS (Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study for 4 years. Of this group roughly 40% were African American and the remaining members were white. During the 4-year research period, 352 of the participants suffered from a stroke.
Among almost all age groups, the African American participants had higher rates of stroke. In the 45 to 54 age group were this difference was the most disparate, African Americans were 2 1/2 more times likely to have a stroke than the whites studied. The only group that African Americans had a lower stroke rate than whites was in the 85 and older category.
Following the same pattern was the likelihood of dying from a stroke for African Americans, which are more likely than whites to have a fatal stroke up until they reach the age of 85, when whites become more likely to die from a stroke.
ASA spokesperson Michael Sloan, an MD and director of University of South Florida in Tampa's stroke program, contends that this racial gap in rates of strokes does not solely explain the differences in stroke death rates. He states that less access to care, including preventative care, and lack of knowledge of stroke signs lead to these figures. Additionally, rates of diabetes and high blood pressure are higher among African Americans, contributing to their stroke risk. The lack of follow up and continuing care for these conditions contributes to the increased fatal stroke numbers among African Americans.
This study also confirms that people living in the stroke belt made up of Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are more likely than people living in other states of the US to suffer a stroke. Researchers hope that this study will shed some light on the racial divide of strokes and help certain subgroups that are at higher risk for stroke recognize it and take the necessary steps like exercise and diet modification to lower their risk.
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