Stroke Rate Dives But Still High for Some

Stroke rates decline but still higher among Mexican Americans

(RxWiki News) When it comes to strokes, rates have dropped significantly over the past decade. Despite this improvement, Mexican Americans continue to have a high rate of strokes.

While stroke numbers have been declining across the board, Mexican Americans may face a likelihood of having a stroke that is about a third greater than non-Hispanic whites, according to a recent study.

Results of that study also showed that these stroke incidents among Mexican Americans often occurred at younger ages.

"Quit smoking and lower cholesterol to decrease stroke risk."

Lewis Morgenstern, MD, in the Stroke Program, Department of Neurology and Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, led this study comparing rates of ischemic stroke (caused by narrowed or blocked arteries in the brain) between Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic whites.

Hispanic/Latinos make up the largest minority group in the United States, comprising about 17 percent of the population, according to the US Census. That number is expected to rise to more than 30 percent by 2050.

Dr. Morgenstern explained that the study focused on Mexican Americans because they are one of the largest and fastest growing segments of the US population.

Subjects were all 45 years of age or older and living in Corpus Christi, Texas between 2000 and 2010. Scientists tallied 2,604 ischemic strokes among Mexican Americans and 2,042 strokes among Caucasian Americans.

Dr. Morgenstern and his colleagues calculated that the number of strokes among all groups dropped by 36 percent during the study timeframe. This decline in stroke rates was limited to those who were 60 and older.

When comparing stroke rates between those aged 45 to 74 in the two groups, however, Mexican Americans had much greater odds of having an ischemic stroke.

Dr. Morgenstern told dailyRx News, “The rate of stroke overall is 34 percent higher in Mexican Americans than it is in non-Hispanic whites after adjustment for age.”

He said that stroke occurs at much younger ages in minority groups and this often results in greater disability and higher costs.

“The ongoing disparity among younger patients emphasizes the need for further interventions to prevent stroke, particularly among young Mexican Americans," said Dr. Morgenstern in a press release.

Sarah Samaan, MD, cardiologist and physician partner at the Baylor Heart Hospital in Plano, Texas, told dailyRx News that, in the case of Mexican Americans, obesity and diabetes rates are climbing, especially in younger adults, and diabetes raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are also major contributors.

“Since all of these conditions are treatable or modifiable, the fact that strokes are not decreasing as much as they should in younger Mexican American adults suggests that perhaps these folks are not getting the preventive health care that they need to keep them safe,” said Dr. Samaan.

Dr. Morgenstern told dailyRx News that he would like to see more advocacy and health promotion messaging to the Mexican American community to raise awareness of this risk and promote healthy living to reduce stroke risk.

“We have a very good idea of what causes stroke,” said Dr. Morgenstern. “It is arguably the most preventable catastrophic condition. Everyone, particularly those at high risk, should work with their doctor to make sure their blood pressure is under good control; eat a diet low in total calories but high in fruit and whole grain to aim for the proper weight; get regular aerobic exercise; avoid direct and indirect tobacco; and do not drink alcohol excessively.”

This study was published in August in the Annals of Neurology, the official journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society.

Review Date: 
August 30, 2013