Mexican American stroke survivors see big drop in repeat strokes

By American Heart Association News

SDI Productions/E+, Getty Images
(SDI Productions/E+, Getty Images)

Over more than a decade, the rate of repeat strokes in Mexican American adults declined faster than in their non-Hispanic white peers, new research shows.

By the end of 2013, the differences between the two groups had vanished, according to the study published Thursday in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

"Throughout this long-term study, this is the first time that we have encountered an improvement in any major marker of ethnic stroke disparities," senior study author, Dr. Lewis Morgenstern, said in a news release. He is professor of neurology and epidemiology at the University of Michigan's Medical School and School of Public Health in Ann Arbor.

The study tracked 3,571 people, at an average age of 45, who self-identified as Mexican American and non-Hispanic white in Nueces County, Texas. The participants, mostly second- and third-generation U.S. citizens, were part of the Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi, or BASIC, project started on Jan. 1, 2000.

The study group's first strokes occurred between that day and Dec. 31, 2013. Researchers then followed each case to determine one- and two-year stroke recurrence. The results showed the frequency of repeat strokes within one year for Mexican Americans was 9.3% in 2000 and then dropped to 3.4% in 2013. By comparison, for non-Hispanic white people, 5.7% had another stroke within a year in 2000 versus 3.6% in 2013.

"These results suggest that stroke recurrence continues to decline in both populations, but faster in Mexican Americans, perhaps because their rates were so high to begin with," Morgenstern said.

Mexican Americans make up 63% of the larger Hispanic community in the United States. More than 9% of Hispanic people, the country's largest minority population, are older than 65 currently. That number is expected to climb to 15.8% in two decades.

People can reduce their chances of having a stroke, Morgenstern said, by managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.

Researchers cross-referenced records with Texas Department of Health death certificates and adjusted for age, sex, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, atrial fibrillation, insurance and cholesterol.

Still, the results from the community-based study may not be generalizable, particularly to immigrant Hispanic populations, researchers said. There also is a small chance that participants may have had a recurrent stroke during their initial hospitalization or after they left the community.

The most common symptoms of stroke are known by the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911. Bystanders should call 911 even if the symptoms go away, according to the American Stroke Association.

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