Research shows that a higher stroke rate is the reason why middle-aged black Americans have a higher chance of dying from a stroke, not the difference in after-care. Blacks between the ages of 45 to 54 are three times more likely to die from a stroke compared to whites, reports the National Institutes of Health.
In the study Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), scientists studied data on stroke incidence and mortality from almost 30,000 ethnically and demographically diverse people over the age of 45 across the United States. At the age of 45, black Americans were four times more likely to die of stroke than whites. But by the age of 85, death rates due to stroke were the same across all patients.
REGARDS was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) – the country’s leading research funder on the brain and nervous system.
The stroke mortality rate has dropped by 70% in the past 50 years, putting stroke as the fifth leading cause of death in the United States overall. This reduction has been attributed to better stroke prevention and improvement in the control of stroke risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, stopping smoking, as well as new methods in post-stroke patient care.
But while national death rates due to stroke have dropped, the disparity between blacks and white patients has persisted, as this study has shown. The difference is believed to be partly because blacks are more prone to stroke factors such as hypertension and diabetes. In the study, while middle-aged black patients were shown to have an increased chance in dying of a stroke, there were no black- white differences in the risk of death among those who had survived a stroke.
Study author George Howard, a biostatistics professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, said in a news release,
The magnitude of public health burden of the racial disparity in stroke is staggering, with an estimated 22,384 ‘extra’ stroke events [occurring in black people in 2014].
The researchers said their study showed the need to increase efforts to prevent and control risk factors for stroke that are more common among blacks, like high blood pressure and diabetes.
“This study shows that improved risk factor prevention and management is critical if we are going to reduce the apparent increased risk of stroke and stroke mortality in blacks,” said Claudia Moy, one of the study authors and acting director of the Office of Clinical Research at NINDS.
The study was published in the journal Stroke.