Minorities Have Higher Stroke Rates

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The different stroke rates between Americans of different races is surprising and reveals a lot about health care and how it affects minorities. African Americans suffer from a 50 percent higher stroke rate when compared to people who are identified as Caucasians. Stroke rates for Hispanic Americans  are about 30 percent higher than the rates for same aged whites, but not as high as the stroke rates for African Americans.

The level of disability and the chances of death after a stroke are also substantially worse for minorities than they are for non-minorities. And, across the board, minorities experience strokes starting at a younger age than non-minorities and go on to have more repeated strokes throughout their lifetimes.

It would be worthwhile to decrease every type of stroke, to decrease all stroke-related disability and to decrease stroke deaths for all Americans, but it is important that minority groups are at higher risk of all problems associated with stroke.

Why Do Minorities Have Higher Stroke Rates?

There are several explanations for the higher rates and worse stroke problems among the African Americans and Hispanic populations.

Access to Health Care

Stroke prevention starts early in life with consistent health maintenance, which includes identification and management of hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cholesterol and fat levels.

Identifying and taking care of all of these problems requires routine health visits. Minorities are less likely to have access to health care throughout life, usually due to economic factors, but sometimes due to fewer accessible health clinics.

Early Age of Cerebrovascular Disease

Medical evidence shows that African Americans more often experience a type of stroke called a subcortical stroke, often known as a small vessel stroke.

A disease of the small blood vessels in the brain, called cerebrovascular disease, typically causes this type of stroke. Years of uncontrolled medical problems lead to cerebrovascular disease.

Subcortical strokes are generally smaller and far less fatal than the larger, cortical strokes typical in older non-minorities. But, African Americans experience more frequent subcortical strokes staring about 20 years younger than their non-minority counterparts. When people suffer from strokes at a young age, the burden of strokes begins to add up early in life and ends up making it difficult to function effectively at a job or maintain stroke prevention habits like exercise. Unless an individual is exceptionally motivated to reverse stroke risk factors, this can create a cycle of disability that leads to more disability.


There are genetic differences when it comes to some stroke risk factors between people of different ethnic backgrounds. For example, African Americans are more likely to have sickle cell disease, which can lead to stroke.

Hypertension is more prevalent in African Americans than in whites, and furthermore, may require a different treatment approach. But these inherent differences do not completely explain the disparity in stroke rates and stroke recovery.

In general, healthcare guidelines have traditionally approached stroke prevention in a uniform way that suits the majority and does not seem to adequately treat or prevent stroke in minorities. Repairing this generalized way of doing things has been a recent area of research.

Why Do Minorities Suffer From More Disability After a Stroke?

Unfortunately, several scientific articles report that minorities are more likely to receive less than optimal care after a stroke. Overcoming this problem should be one of the most pressing priorities in stroke care.

A Hard Look at Tough Subjects

Stroke is one of the leading causes of disability and the 4th leading cause of death in the United States. No one wants to have a stroke. But lifestyle habits and health maintenance play a huge part in preventing stroke. Some populations are at a disadvantage because of various factors such as genetic predisposition and lack of access to health care, which is often a result of bigger problems such as unemployment or lack of health insurance. The fact that there are discrepancies in stroke rates and stroke recovery among people of different races is a vitally important issue that gives a great deal of insight about how the healthcare system does not serve minorities as effectively as non-minorities.

Preventing a stroke and optimizing stroke recovery are the best ways to decease disability and early death. Learn more about stroke prevention and how to optimize your recovery or the recovery of your loved one after a stroke.


Brain Aging in African-Americans: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Experience, Gottesman RF, Fornage M, Knopman DS, Mosley TH, Current Alzheimer Research, 2015

Differences in Stroke Mortality Among Adults Aged 45 and Over: United States, 2010-2013, Ingram DD, Montresor-Lopez JA, NCHS Data Brief, July 2015

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