Strokes Are Down in U.S.; Diabetes Not So Much

A new report shows that strokes have decreased by 50 percent in elderly Americans, including African Americans, over the past 25 years. Better treatment of hypertension and high cholesterol, in addition to more people stopping or never starting smoking, accounted for the biggest decrease, the researchers found. Scientists followed more than 14,300 people age 45-64 from 1987 to 2011 and found that incidents of stroke decreased by half. Death from stroke decreased by about 40 percent, but mostly among the younger of the research subjects.

What is particularly interesting is that occurrence of stroke was across the board in men and women, blacks and whites. African Americans are twice as likely to have and die from a stroke as white Americans, according to the National Stroke Association. Additionally, blacks are more likely to have strokes at a younger age then their white counterparts and are more likely to suffer disability and have problems with daily living and activities, the association reports. Why? Because black people have higher rates of the major factors that can cause stroke, namely high blood pressure, diabetes, sickle cell anemia and obesity. Smoking also is a risk factor in likelihood of stroke. Lastly, black people are less likely than whites to get tPA, the only FDA-approved treatment for stroke as compared to whites.

The new study specifically studied the trends in stroke among blacks and whites and found there were similar reductions across the board. At the same time, researchers found that diabetes became more common over that time frame as did obesity, which may be the reason stroke incidents did not go down as significantly among middle age people as their more senior fellow Americans.

What is a Stroke?

There are different types of strokes but generally it is a brain attack where a blood clot blocks a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain.  When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die or a part of the brain in damaged, the abilities controlled by that area of the brains — such as speech or ability to move legs or arms — can be affected.

Find out if you are at risk with this handy scorecard. Also, get more information on preventing stroke and tips on what to do if you think you or a loved one is having a stroke.

Author: Retha Hill

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