Stroke belt remains high risk area for Americans

New York Times

 

Risks: Leaving ‘Stroke Belt’ but Not the Dangers

 

Residents of the Southeast are so much more likely than other Americans to die of a stroke that epidemiologists call the region the “stroke belt.” A new study suggests that the risk may be established early in life, because even when those born in the South relocate to another region as adults, they carry the increased risk of stroke with them.

 

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health who analyzed stroke deaths in the United States found that people who were born in the Southeast and continued to live there as adults were 34 percent more likely than other Americans to die of a stroke in the year 2000. But even those who moved away faced an increased risk, with whites 20 percent and blacks 9 percent more likely to die of a stroke than Americans who never lived in the region, the study found.

 

The stroke belt includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

 

The study, published in the Dec. 1 issue of the journal Neurology, analyzed death rates from 1980, 1990 and 2000. Though stroke death rates declined, the study found consistent patterns of elevated risk through the decades.

 

“This is a real mystery,” said M. Maria Glymour, lead author of the study and an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Although the increased risk is very small on an individual level, she said, “We don’t know exactly what is going on that’s affecting people so broadly.”

 

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