Minorities and Stroke

Minorities have higher stroke risks, stroke occurrence at an earlier age, and for some more severe strokes. Although certain risk factors for stroke, such as genetics or family history cannot be controlled, others such as high blood pressure or diabetes can go unrecognized. Knowing your risk factors for stroke and controlling them is the first step in preventing a stroke. Here is a closer look at stroke in different minority groups.

The statistics are staggering—in fact, African-Americans are more impacted by stroke than any other racial groups within the American population. African-Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as Caucasians and their rate of first strokes is almost double that of Caucasians.

Strokes in this population tend to occur earlier in life.  And as survivors, African-Americans are more likely to become disabled and experience difficulties with daily living and activities.

Why are African-Americans at higher risk?

Not all of the reasons are clear why African-Americans have an increased risk of stroke. However, research points to the following risk factors as major reasons:

  • High blood pressure: The number one risk factor for stroke, and 1 in 3 African-Americans suffer from high blood pressure. They are also less likely to have it under control than their non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher stroke risk.
  • Sickle cell anemia: The most common genetic disorder amongst African-Americans. If sickle-shaped cells block a blood vessel to the brain, a stroke can result.
  • Smoking: Risk for stroke doubles when you smoke. If you stop smoking today, your stroke risk will immediately begin to decrease.
  • Obesity: Adopting a lower-sodium (salt), lower-fat diet and becoming more physically active may help lower blood pressure and risk for stroke. They are also much less likely to engage in active physical activity.

The Hispanic population in the U.S. has a different occurrence of stroke risk factors than their Caucasian counterparts. Hispanics are more likely to suffer a stroke at a younger age—average age of 67—compared to 80 for non-Hispanic Caucasians.  Stroke and heart disease account for one in four deaths among Hispanic men and one in three deaths among Hispanic women.

Why are Hispanic Americans at higher risk?

High blood pressure, higher rates in obesity (75% of Hispanic-American men and 72% of women are overweight or obese), and a growing number of diabetes cases (estimated 30% of adult Hispanics), are the leading reasons for increased risk for stroke in this population. Furthermore, Mexican American stroke survivors with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of stroke recurrences and more severe strokes.

Language barriers and lack of transportation are major reasons why the Hispanic population is more likely to:

  • Delay care
  • Stop treatment once they feel better
  • Avoid visits to the doctor

American Indians and Alaska Natives are 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke than their Caucasian counterparts. Heart disease is the first and stroke the sixth leading cause of death among this population. Deaths from heart disease among this population occur at a younger age—about 36% of those who die do so before the age 65. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and smoking among this population are the main risk factors that increase their stroke risk.

In general, Asian-Americans are less likely to die from a stroke. They tend to have lower rates of being overweight or obese and lower rates of high blood pressure than all other racial groups. They tend to lead healthier lifestyles, however, research shows that they are still 20 percent more likely to suffer a stroke than their Caucasian counterparts.

Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have been shown to have higher prevalence of major stroke risk factors – specifically high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are four times more likely to die from stroke than their non-Hispanic Caucasian counterparts.