Blacks and Hispanics of Caribbean descent may have a much higher risk of stroke than whites, new research suggests.
“Previous research has suggested that racial and ethnic disparities in stroke risk are greater at younger ages and dissipate as people get older, so we were surprised to find that the differences remained strong in women over 70 years old,” said study author Hannah Gardener, an associate scientist in neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
“Disparities in stroke risk among elderly minorities are persistent. Identifying minority populations at a higher risk for stroke and targeting their modifiable risk factors are public health priorities,” Gardener added in a university news release.
The study followed nearly 3,300 New Yorkers, average age 69, enrolled in the ongoing Northern Manhattan Study, which began in 1993 to examine stroke rates and risk factors.
Over an average follow-up of more than 13 years, 460 participants had strokes. Most of the strokes were ischemic, meaning they were caused by a clot in an artery carrying blood to the brain.
Overall, men had a 48% higher risk of stroke than women. Compared to whites, blacks had a 50% higher risk of stroke. The disparity between whites and blacks was strongest in women and continued past age 70.
Compared with whites, Hispanics had a 50% higher risk of stroke, but that gap significantly narrowed after the researchers adjusted for socioeconomic status, except among women aged 70 and older. By age 85, Hispanics had the highest stroke rate.
The findings are to be presented this week at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, in Los Angeles, and published in the journal Stroke.
Previous studies found an increased stroke risk among blacks and Mexican Americans, but the research in northern Manhattan is the first to document the heightened risk for Hispanics of Caribbean descent, the researchers said.
Stroke risk factors include smoking, alcohol intake, body mass index, high blood pressure, heart disease, physical inactivity and diabetes.
“It’s important for everyone to know their stroke risk factors, take their prescribed medications and make lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk,” Gardener said. “Risk factor management starting at or before middle age is key in reducing stroke risk, especially among blacks and Hispanics who are at increased risk.”
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more on stroke risk factors and symptoms.
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