Is this silent killer more likely to affect African Americans?

Is this silent killer more likely to affect African Americans?

Nearly 800,000 people suffer a stroke every year in the U.S., but African Americans are more likely to have a stroke than any other racial group.

They are twice as likely to have a stroke compared to Caucasians and have the highest rate of death by stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

What is popularly known as the “stroke belt” of the U.S. is primarily made up of geographical areas with large African American populations. This area stretches from Virginia to Oklahoma and as far south as Louisiana.

It isn’t completely clear why African Americans are more impacted by strokes than other racial groups, but experts suggest socioeconomic factors such as income, education and employment status affect the environment we live in and can contribute to the risks that can increase the prevalence of strokes.

African Americans are disproportionately affected by some of the most common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

“Over time, if people have less access to healthy foods, their choices could lead to obesity and even diabetes – two risk factors for a stroke,” says Dr. Melvin Wichter, chairman of neurology at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill.

“Individuals with a low socioeconomic status may live in an area without access to high quality health care conveniences or have limited access to the insurance coverage they need for preventative care to avoid strokes.”

Years of research have identified the following reasons as major stroke risk factors for having a stroke:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Alcohol use
  • Unhealthy diet

There’s good news, though.

“Knowing your risk factors for a stroke is the first step in preventing one,” says Dr. Wichter. “Many of the risk factors for stroke start earlier in African Americans, or they are already predisposed to them. Educating not only African-Americans earlier but our entire population about healthy lifestyles and the risks of stroke when they are young will help relieve this disparity for future generations.”

80 percent of all strokes are preventable. Learn about strokes and your personal risk of having one. Click here to take our assessment today.

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About the Author

Marrison Worthington
Marrison Worthington

Marrison Worthington, health enews contributor, is a public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois. She is a graduate of Illinois State University and has several years of global corporate communications experience under her belt. Marrison loves spending her free time traveling, reading organizational development blogs, trying new cooking recipes, and playing with her golden retriever, Ari.