Mayo Clinic Minute: What African-Americans Should Know About Stroke

Stroke Risk and African-Americans

It starts with genetics and lifestyle choices that lead to or worsen risk factors like high blood pressure and diabetes. Here's what you need to know.

By Diana Rodriguez

Medically Reviewed by Christine Wilmsen Craig, MD

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In any given year, 100,000 African-Americans will have a stroke, and stroke is the third leading cause of death in the African-American community. If you are African-American, it’s important to get the facts about your stroke risk and learn how you can minimize risk factors.

African-Americans and Stroke: The Numbers

Overall, African-Americans suffer more strokes than any other group of people. "There are statistics showing that [they] have about twice the mortality of stroke than Caucasians,” explains Ralph L. Sacco, MD, neurologist-in-chief at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla., and spokesperson for the American Stroke Association. These statistics show just how high the stroke risk is:

  • For men between the ages of 45 and 54, the risk of ischemic stroke — the most prevalent type of stroke, which is caused by a blood clot that blocks an artery — is three times higher in African-Americans than in Caucasians.
  • For African-Americans between the ages of 20 and 44, the risk of stroke is nearly two-and-a-half times higher than it is for Caucasians.
  • According to the National Stroke Association, stroke or heart disease will claim the lives of half of all African-American women.
  • African-Americans have more severe strokes that are also more disabling.

African-Americans and Stroke: The Risk Factors

High blood pressure and obesity are two of the biggest risk factors for stroke, and the number of African-Americans with these medical conditions is huge. "Some of the risk factors are more frequent in African-Americans than in white Americans,” says Dr. Sacco. Some of the following risk factors are inherited, others are lifestyle-related and easier to change.

  • High blood pressure.This is risk factor number one for stroke, and up to 40 percent of African-Americans have the condition. “High blood pressure is more prevalent in African-Americans and not as well controlled, particularly where access to care is not great," says Sacco.
  • Obesity.Nearly 63 percent of African-American men are overweight or obese, and that number jumps to just over 77 percent for women.
  • Diabetes.African-Americans are also more likely to have diabetes than Caucasians.
  • Tobacco use.Almost 28 percent of African-Americans use tobacco, one risk factor that can be reduced or eliminated by stopping the use of tobacco products or never starting in the first place.
  • Sickle cell anemia.The blood disease sickle cell anemia is a condition that primarily affects African-Americans. A stroke can occur if sickle- or abnormally-shaped blood cells create a blockage in a blood vessel.

African-Americans and Stroke: The Reasons

Why are African-Americans more likely to have these risk factors than white Americans? "It's probably both lifestyle and socioeconomic status. We want to first figure out the environmental things, for example, diet and lack of exercise — these contribute to greater high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes," says Sacco.

The most frequently-mentioned factors that add to the higher risk of stroke include:

  • Lifestyle.Obesity and the quality of diet, lack of exercise including activities that strengthen the cardiovascular system, and tobacco use all increase the risk of stroke.
  • Family history.If a close relative, like a grandparent, parent, or sibling has had a stroke, stroke risk is increased. The American Stroke Association recommends creating a family-tree history to map out family health issues that can then be discussed with a doctor.
  • Lack of access to care.“Many African-Americans may not be able to receive medical care to [identify and] treat these risk factors," explains Sacco.
  • Limited financial resources."Drugs cost money, and people who have less insurance can't afford them," says Sacco.

African-Americans and Stroke: Next Steps

While researchers try to understand genetic factors that could lead more African- Americans to have higher incidences of key risk factors, like high blood pressure, awareness campaigns are spreading the word about stroke prevention and early detection.

"There's a huge campaign from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, called ',' focused on trying to increase awareness of the greater risk of stroke in African-Americans and the importance of controlling risk factors," says Sacco.

Awareness of your personal risk factors is the first step toward lowering your chance of stroke. Then, with a combination of medical treatment for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes coupled with a heart-healthy diet and exercise plan, you can help keep yourself from becoming one of those statistics.

Video: Simple Science @Heart: Black stroke survivors face greater risk from high blood pressure

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Date: 12.12.2018, 13:15 / Views: 75263