Racial Disparities in Stroke Due to Frequency, Control of Risk Factors

Stroke disproportionately strikes black Americans mainly because of an increased prevalence of risk factors and a lower degree of risk factor control, according to a study by Columbia neurologists.

Stroke disparities between white and black Americans are well documented: Blacks are twice as likely as whites to experience stroke; they experience stroke at a younger age, and they are more likely to die from a stroke.

To investigate the reasons for the disparities, Jose Gutierrez, MD, and Olajide Williams, MD, analyzed data on stroke risk factors—including high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking—from nearly 38,000 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2000 and 2009.

Their findings—published in the journal Neurologyshows that differences in rates and control of hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol largely explained the stroke disparities between white and black Americans.

The authors write that “addressing racial and ethnic disparities in stroke requires more robust and systematic approaches to vascular risk factor control.”

In 2013, Columbia University Medical Center and NYU Langone Medical Center created the Center for Stroke Disparities Solutions with a grant from the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and StrokeThe center is creating and testing programs aimed at lowering stroke risk among racial and ethnic minorities. The consortium includes the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, five hospital-based stroke centers, and a research network of primary-care practices within New York City's Health and Hospital Corporation.