Strokes Are Up Nationwide Since 2011-2013, Growing Among Black Americans

(HealthDay News) — The prevalence of stroke increased from 2011-2013 to 2020-2022, according to research published in the May 23 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Omoye E. Imoisili, M.D., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to analyze age-standardized stroke prevalence during 2011 to 2022 among adults.

The researchers found a 7.8 percent increase in overall self-reported stroke prevalence nationwide from 2011-2013 to 2020-2022. Adults aged 18 to 64 years; women and men; non-Hispanic Black or African American, non-Hispanic Whites, and Hispanic or Latino persons; and adults with less than a college degree all had increases in prevalence. The prevalence of stroke was higher among adults aged 65 years and older versus younger adults; among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and Black versus White adults; and among adults with less than a high school education versus higher levels of education. The prevalence of stroke increased in 10 states and decreased in the District of Columbia.

“Advancing focused evidence-based practices and programs for stroke awareness, prevention, and treatment is essential for improving the cerebrovascular health of the nation,” the authors write.

What is a stroke?

A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. This disrupts the oxygen and nutrient supply to brain cells, causing them to die. The brain relies on this constant supply to function properly, and when it’s cut off, even for a brief period, brain damage can occur. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and a significant contributor to disability.

The effects of a stroke depend on the location and severity of the brain damage. Symptoms can vary widely but may include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, slurred speech, trouble understanding speech, vision problems, dizziness, and severe headache. Recognizing these signs and seeking immediate medical attention is crucial for minimizing brain damage and improving recovery outcomes.

Why are strokes more prevalent?

There is a variety of factors contributing the rise of stroked in the United States. The US population is aging, and stroke risk increases significantly with age. As the number of older adults grows, so too does the overall number of strokes.

Certain health conditions also significantly increase the risk of stroke. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). The prevalence of these conditions is on the rise in the United States, particularly among younger adults.

Uncontrolled hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke. According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all adults in the US (around 122 million) have high blood pressure, with a significant portion unaware they have it. This silent threat can silently damage blood vessels, making them more prone to rupture or blockage.

Factors like poor diet, physical inactivity, and smoking significantly increase the risk of stroke. These habits are unfortunately becoming more prevalent. A diet high in saturated and unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar can contribute to high blood pressure and cholesterol, while physical inactivity can lead to obesity—all risk factors for stroke. Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of blood clots.

There are positive aspects to consider. While stroke prevalence is on the rise, stroke death rates have been declining in recent decades, particularly among older adults. This is likely due to improvements in stroke prevention, early detection, and treatment.

Familiarizing yourself with the signs of stroke (sudden weakness, speech difficulties, vision problems, etc.) and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of them. Early intervention is crucial for minimizing brain damage and improving recovery outcomes.

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