University of Alabama Birmingham Study Finds a Racial Disparity in Stroke Risk for Women

A new study led by Virginia Howard, a professor at the University of Alabama Birmingham, has examined the risk of stroke based on sex, race, and age. The researchers believe it is the first study to evaluate whether the stroke risk in men and women is similar for White men and women compared to Black men and women.

The results found that between the ages of 45 and 75, White women were less likely to have a stroke than White men, but at age 75 and older, there was no difference in stroke risk between White men and women. In contrast, the study found that Black women were at lower risk of stroke than Black men only until age 64, with a similar stroke risk in the age group of 65 and older.

Additionally, the study examined the association of several stroke risk factors between Black men and women and White men and women after adjustment for age.

“For Whites, there were differences by sex in the association of diabetes, blood pressure, antihypertensive medication use and heart disease with stroke risk,” said lead author Virginia Howard, professor in UAB’s School of Public Health. “In Whites, after controlling for other risk factors and socioeconomic factors, diabetes, higher systolic blood pressure and history of heart disease increased the stroke risk more for women than men. Also, in Whites, use of antihypertensive medications conferred lower stroke risk in women than men. For Blacks, there was no evidence of a sex difference for any risk factor.”

The researchers believe that their findings suggest that Black women may benefit from preventive measures at an earlier age than their White peers.

“We hope this will encourage people and their primary care physicians to have more discussions, and to ‘target’ their discussion on risk factors of more importance to the patient — about stroke risk factors and what can be done to prevent the risk factor from occurring,” said Dr. Howard. “Or if someone already has risk factors, the discussion can be geared toward better management and control of risk factors. This is true across all race-sex-age groups.”

Dr. Howard holds a master’s degree in biostatistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Medical University of South Carolina.

The full study, “Sex and Race Differences in the Association of Incident Ischemic Stroke With Risk Factors,” was published on the website of JAMA Neurology. It may be accessed here.


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