Strokes More Common in South or “Stroke Belt”

African-Americans, older Americans and people with lower levels of education are mostly affected.

Posted: 05/30/2012 11:30 AM EDT

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looked at reported stroke data from the years 2006 to 2010, and the results proved a mixed bag.

The good news: Stroke deaths in the United States are down 3.7 percent due to better treatment. The bad news: Stroke rates did not decline in five years, and they are still the most common in Southern states, also known as the "Stroke Belt."

The CDC also found that African-Americans, older people, Native Americans and people with lower levels of education were more likely to have strokes than whites and people with higher levels of education.

Lead report author Dr. Jing Fang, an epidemiologist in CDC's Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, told HealthDay News that the disparities exist because of “the higher rates of obesity, smoking and hypertension, which are all risk factors for stroke," in Southern states.

She confirmed this is the same for people of color and people with little education, but stated that more is at play.

"The disparities in stroke prevalence by age, race and education continue to highlight the importance of stroke in certain segments of our population who need more intensive stroke prevention and treatment efforts," Dr. Fans said.

According to HealthDay News, the report also found the following:

—The only states to show a significant decrease in strokes were South Dakota and Georgia.
—States with the highest rates of stroke include South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Nevada.
—Those with the lowest rates include New York, Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the New England states.

Last September, reported that African-Americans who live outside the so-called “Stroke Belt” are still at a higher risk for a stroke death than other populations and that those figures run higher in rural rather than in urban areas.

The more common kind of stroke is called ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blood clot that blocks or plugs a blood vessel in the brain. The other kind, called hemorrhagic stroke, is caused by a blood vessel that breaks and bleeds into the brain. Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and are the leading cause of disability among adults.

The key to surviving a stroke is being able to recognize the warning signs and call 911 immediately. Yet, that isn't necessarily happening in the Black community. Past studies found that too many African-Americans don't know what a stroke looks like and are more likely to call family members and friends when someone is having a stroke, instead of calling the paramedics.   

Stroke warning signs include:
—Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, often on only one side of the body
—Sudden confusion and trouble speaking or understanding others
—Sudden difficulty seeing
—Sudden trouble walking, feelings of dizziness and loss of balance or coordination
—Sudden severe headache of unknown cause

Learn more about stroke prevention here.

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(Photo: CDC)