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Stroke Care Disparities in Different Racial and Ethnic Groups

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In the United States, strokes are the third most common cause of death, with 137,000 people dying from them each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. A patient can have a stroke when a blood clot prevents blood from reaching the brain or when a blood vessel bursts, causing bleeding in the brain. A stroke caused by a blood clot is called an ischemic stroke while a stroke caused by a blood vessel bursting is called a hemorrhagic stroke. In both types of stroke, the brain cells do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and die.

When a person has a stroke, then symptoms can develop suddenly. MedlinePlus noted that they are usually at their most severe at the onset of the stroke, though in some cases, the symptoms may slowly become worse. While the symptoms of a stroke depend on where in the brain it occurs, the CDC said common symptoms include a severe headache, confusion, numbness or weakness, vision problems, difficulty with speech, and issues with coordination, walking and balance. Having certain conditions raises a person's risk for having a stroke. These include high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and atrial fibrillation. Individuals also have a higher risk for a stroke if they have a family history of stroke.

Getting the proper care after a stroke is key: MedlinePlus stated that receiving treatment as soon as possible can save lives and also reduce disability. But in a statement from the American Heart Association, it revealed that there is disparity in stroke care in the different racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In a press release from the American Heart Association, Salvador Cruz Flores, M.D., M.P.H., lead author of “Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Stroke Care: The American Experience: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association,” stated that “we see disparities in every aspect of stroke care, from lack of awareness of stroke risk factors and symptoms to delayed arrival to the emergency room and increased waiting time. These disparities continue throughout the spectrum of the delivery of care from acute treatment to rehabilitation.”

The statement reviewed stroke care among Native-Americans, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Native Hawaiians/other Pacific Islanders. The authors discussed the higher prevalence of risk factors, and a higher incidence of strokes and stroke mortality. The statement also noted that with the lack of awareness of stroke symptoms among these racial and ethnic groups, it is prominent in women. The authors also looked at disparities in accessing preventative services, such as income, mistrust of the health care system, insurance and language barriers. The statement made several recommendations to reduce these disparities, including education, increasing minority population's access to insurance, and developing new public health policies.


Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Stroke Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. Web. 15 June 2011

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Stroke: Hope Through Research. National Institutes of Health, 2011. Web. 15 June 2011

A.D.A.M. Stroke. MedlinePlus, 2010. Web. 15 June 2011

American Heart Association Scientific Statement. Disparities in Stroke Care Prevail Among US Racial/Ethnic Groups. American Heart Association, 26 May 2011. Web. 15 June 2011

Cruz-Flores, S. et al. Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Stroke Care: The American Experience: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, 2011. Web. 15 June 2011

Reviewed June 16, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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