The Poor Just Got Poorer

Poor patients have more severe strokes than those who are more financially secure

(RxWiki News) Poorer patients have more ischemic strokes (strokes resulting from blockages in blood vessels) than affluent patients, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati.

The study, led by Dawn Kleindorfer, MD, an associate professor in the department of neurology, also found increased poverty in the neighborhood where the stroke patient lived correlated with worse stroke severity at presentation.

Research began in 1993 at the UC College of Medicine and sought to identify all hospitalized and autopsied cases of stroke and transient ischemic attack (TIA) in a five-county region as part of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Stroke Study. The study looked at 1,933 cases of ischemic stroke from 2005 and found a majority of patients were female (52.3 percent) and 21.9 percent African-American with an overall average age of 71.

On a scale comparing socioeconomic statuses, the poorest patients presented with an increased stroke severity of 1.6 points compared to the wealthiest patient category.

Though the study could not definitively say why poorer patients have more severe strokes, Kleindorfer said it was "similar to the effect of having a history of coronary artery disease or high blood pressure." Other, separate research has shown that because of prohibitive costs of regular doctor visits or having health insurance at all, the poor often do not take preventive measure when they are ill and their illnesses worsen until they are so ill they must go to the hospital. Waiting that long is more expensive because by then they are so ill that getting better is a much longer, more expensive road.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Ischemic stroke accounts for 87 percent of all stroke cases, according to the American Stroke Association. Symptoms, which require immediate medical attention, include difficulty speaking or understanding speech (aphasia); difficulty walking; dizziness or lightheadedness (vertigo); and numbness, paralysis or weakness, usually on one side of the body.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2011