In South Carolina, Blacks Having Stroke at Younger Ages

Stroke hospitalizations rose among middle aged African Americans in South Carolina

(RxWiki News) Although stroke numbers have been dropping over the past decade, African Americans continue to face a high stroke risk. And stroke rates seem to be rising in one Southern state.

The rate of strokes in blacks is almost double that of whites, according to the National Stroke Association. The rates of stroke and stroke-related deaths are especially high in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia — three states that are part of the “Stroke Belt,” an area in the Southeast known for its high incidence of stroke.

A new study found that the situation may be getting worse in this region, as the number of stroke-related hospitalizations among middle aged blacks in South Carolina has risen over the course of 10 years.

"Have your blood pressure checked regularly."

Wayne Feng, MD, assistant professor and stroke neurologist at the Medical University of South Carolina Stroke Center in Charleston, led this investigation.

Dr. Feng and colleagues reviewing records of 84,179 stroke patients who where hospitalized in South Carolina between to 2001 and 2010.

These researchers found that while stroke hospitalizations among whites younger than 65 remained the same over this time period, blacks in that age group experienced a 17 percent increase.

Of those hospitalized for stroke, half of the black patients were younger than 65, compared with just under a third of the white patients.

On a more positive note, fewer blacks and whites over age 65 were hospitalized over the decade, and the 30-day stroke-related death rate for all ages and races dropped.

The study's authors noted that stroke hospitalization charges amounted to $2.77 billion. Of this amount, $453.2 million (16.4 percent) was tied to the higher stroke hospitalization rate in the blacks, with a significant proportion (79.6 percent, or $361.5 million) related to the hospitalization of younger patients.

“Excess strokes among blacks as well as the lingering racial disparity in the younger groups represent a serious public health issue,” said Dr. Feng in a press release.

Compared with whites, middle-aged blacks are more likely to have risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.

Dr. Feng stressed the importance of exercising and eating healthy, and starting these habits at a young age.

“Combined with annual physician checkups to identify and treat diseases, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, at an early stage, these habits can help you prevent stroke down the road,” Dr. Feng said.

When a person has a stroke, a clot or rupture in a blood vessel in the brain decreases blood flow to brain cells, causing significant disability. This stroke-related disability in young and middle-aged individuals can disrupt peak years of productivity.

This study was published June 19 in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

The research was funded by Southeastern Virtual Institute for Heath Equality and Wellness; US Army Medical Research and Material Command and Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center; Stroke Education and Prevention – South Carolina, Health Sciences South Carolina; and the Consortium for Southeastern Hypertension Control.

Review Date: 
June 18, 2014