Stroke in the African American community

Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States. In South Carolina, African Americans are 43 percent more likely to die from stroke than Caucasians. Young adults are also dying from stroke. Stroke resulted in 16,298 hospitalizations in South Carolina in 2017. Of these, 37 percent were patients younger than 65. Those numbers are alarming.

A group of southeastern states with high death rates form the “stroke belt.” The stroke belt is a region of 11 states in the U.S. where studies show the risk of stroke is 34 percent higher for the population than it is in other areas of the country. Increased risk of death from cardiovascular diseases in the stroke belt are due to greater than average rates of obesity, cigarette smoking and high blood pressure.

How can we improve these statistics? We start by knowing the risk factors for stroke and working to improve them. These risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, heart disease, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. Decrease your risk of stroke with regular visits with your primary care provider. Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Eat a healthy diet and use less salt. Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all. Stay smoke and drug free.

Two in five African Americans in South Carolina have high blood pressure. Regular physical activity could reduce one’s risk of having high blood pressure by nearly 20 percent. In South Carolina, 57 percent of African Americans do not get the recommended amount of physical activity.

Living in southeastern states does not mean people have less control over their diet or exercise regimens. However, it is important to be aware of unhealthy traditions and patterns in the community. Southern states are unfortunately associated with fatty cooking and slower lifestyles. It is important to break the chains of social norms and lifestyles of families who have occupied southern states for generations. You have the power to modify some stroke risk factors by making dietary and behavioral changes to decrease your risks.

Every second counts when it comes to stroke. If you notice any of the following symptoms in yourself or someone else, call 911 immediately. Ask to go to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Prisma Health Greenville Memorial Hospital.

B- Bad balance/dizzy

E- Eyes have trouble seeing

F- Face Drooping

A-Arm and leg weakness

S- Slurred or strange speech

T- Time to call 911

Post author Sarina Brown, NP, is a nurse practitioner with Neuroscience Associates

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