STROKES: On the Rise in U.S., Minorities Suffer More
The number of strokes in the United States is increasing again after appearing to decline for several decades, although in recent years stroke incidence may have been underestimated, according to a study announced yesterday. The study, led by a Mayo Clinic neurologist, estimates that 750,000 new or recurrent strokes occur each year in the United States, compared to previous estimates of 500,000 strokes per year. But the previous figures did not contain sufficient data for minorities, who are at higher risk for stoke, and failed to include recurrent strokes, which can be "critical" to patients' health, the study authors said. The findings indicate that physicians may not be focusing enough on key risk factors for stroke, and patients may be failing to adhere to treatment regiments for those conditions, researchers warned during a presentation of their findings at a conference of the American Stroke Association in New Orleans (Neenan, HealthSCOUT, 2/11).
Also at the conference, the CDC reported that middle-aged blacks are four times more likely than whites in the same age group to suffer or die from a stroke, and middle-aged Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and Alaska natives also are at higher risk of death from stroke. The racial gap is much less pronounced at older ages, suggesting that younger minorities are not sufficiently informed about risk factors, said CDC researchers. The research also indicated that poor access to health care and mistrust of the medical system were partly responsible for the disparity (Bachman, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/11).
Finally, researchers using data from the Framingham Heart Study found that high blood pressure in middle age greatly increases the risk of stroke later in life, even if blood pressure is subsequently reduced. A 20-point elevation in systolic pressure for a person in their 50s increases the risk of stroke after age 70 by 40%, while the same elevation in their 60s increases later risk by 50%. Increased risk persists even if patients control blood pressure in their old age, although the risk is lower than if hypertension is left untreated (Haney, Associated Press, 2/11).