U.S. Has Racial Gap in Stroke Rate
Study Shows African-Americans More Likely Than Whites to Have Strokes
WebMD News Archive
March 1, 2010 (San Antonio) -- The first national snapshot of the racial gap
in stroke rates shows that African-Americans are more likely to suffer from the
debilitating condition than whites.
The study of over 26,000 people aged 45 and older from across the U.S. may
help to explain why African-Americans are more likely to die from stroke than
whites, says researcherVirginia J. Howard, PhD, associate professor of
epidemiology at the University of Alabama School of Public Health in
"It has long known that blacks die at a higher rate from stroke than whites,
but there has been little data explaining why. The analysis suggests that the
higher rate of stroke in the African-American population may be one of the
reasons," Howard says.
The study involved 26,618 people enrolled in the REGARDS (REasons for
Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke) study. About 40% were
African-American and the rest were white.
Over a four-year period, 352 of them suffered a stroke.
"There were higher rates of strokes in blacks in almost every age group,
especially among those aged 45 to 54. This younger age group was
two-and-one-half times more likely to have had a stroke than whites," Howard
The study, presented here at a meeting of the American Stroke Association
(ASA), showed that:
- Among people aged 45 to 54, there were 192 strokes per 100,000
African-Americans vs. 74 strokes per 100,000 whites.
- Among people aged 55 to 64, there were 387 strokes per 100,000
African-Americans vs. 204 strokes per 100,000 whites.
- Among people aged 65 to 74, there were 713 strokes per 100,000
African-Americans vs. 439 strokes per 100,000 whites.
- Among people aged 75 to 84, there were 1,095 strokes per 100,000
African-Americans vs. 925 strokes per 100,000 whites.
African-Americans aged 85 and older were the only ones exempt from the
trend. In this age group, there were 835 strokes per 100,000 African-Americans
vs. 1,131 strokes per 100,000 whites.
Stroke Death Patterns
Deaths from stroke follow the same pattern, with blacks consistently more
likely to have a fatal stroke than whites until the age of 85, Howard says.
The racial gap in stroke rates alone doesn't explain the disparity in stroke
death rates, says ASA spokesman Michael Sloan, MD, director of the stroke
program at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
"Blacks also have less access to care, particularly preventive care. In
general, they have less knowledge of stroke signs and risk factors," he tells
"African-Americans are less likely to have regular follow-up exams for
management of risk factors. We know that African Americans have more diabetes
and high blood pressure," both of which are major stroke risk factors, Howard
The new study also confirmed that people living in the so-called "stroke
belt" states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas,
Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi -- are more likely to suffer strokes than
people living in other areas of the U.S.
"The message," Howard says, "is that certain subgroups are more at risk and
need to pay serious attention to their risk factors to prevent stroke. No one
should assume that just because their grandmother died from stroke, they will
die from stroke. There are steps you can take, such as eating right and
exercising, to lower risk," she says.