Hispanics, already shown to have a greater risk of diabetes and obesity than other racial groups, face twice the risk of recurrent strokes
And the risk is particularly acute among those 45 to 59 years old, according to a study to be published in the September issue of Annals of Neurology.
The study, conducted by the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, involved 1,345 stroke patients in Nueces County from 2000 to 2004. The median age of patients was 72, and 53 percent were Hispanic.
Among those patients, 126 had a recurrent stroke and 417 died from a variety of causes after their first stroke. The study also showed that those who had a recurrent stroke had a two- to three-fold increased risk of death due to any cause, across all ethnic demographics.
What’s more, the rise in recurrent strokes among Hispanics — the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population — will help fuel a rapid increase in health care costs and will have a staggering effect on the country’s economy.
A second University of Michigan study released this month in Neurology, funded by the National Institutes of Health, predicts that the nation will pay $2.2 trillion during the next 45 years to care for stroke patients.
The study says a disproportionate amount of that bill will be for Latino and African-American stroke patients, because of their tendency to suffer strokes at younger ages and because they have poorer-quality preventative care.
“Doing the right thing now ultimately could be cost-saving in the future, but we have a long way to go before all Americans receive adequate stroke prevention and emergency stroke care,” said lead study author Dr. Devin Brown, also an assistant professor in the university medical school’s Department of Neurology.
“If our society is not going to do it for the right reasons, perhaps we can do it because it’s going to be obscenely expensive.”
The $2.2 trillion estimate includes hospital costs, medications, nursing home and at-home care, as well as lost earnings for stroke survivors under age 65. The studies focus on ischemic strokes, which account for 88 percent of all strokes, and occur when a clot or clogged blood vessel blocks the flow of blood to all or part of the brain.
Brown said all Americans should focus on quitting smoking, losing weight, exercising and checking blood pressure and cholesterol levels to reduce the risk of stroke. Physicians should do their part by doing a better job of preventative care and screening for patients with high blood pressure, clogged arteries and heart-rhythm issues, she added.
Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the country, and a leading cause of serious disability. About 700,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, and 157,000 of those die, according to the American Heart Association.
The cost for treating ischemic strokes in 2005 among Hispanics, the largest minority group in the country, was estimated at $3.1 billion. Hispanics, who now account for 13 percent of the U.S. population, will comprise 25 percent by 2050.
“Strokes are already a major health problem. Hispanics’ major risk factors like diabetes and obesity, and the fact that the population is aging points us to believe we’ll have a significant increase in stroke occurrence,” said Kenneth Ottenbacher, director of the division of rehabilitation science at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s School of Allied Health Services.
Mexican Americans have higher risk of stroke recurrence