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Stroke & African Americans

- Summary
- About stroke and African Americans
- Risk factors and causes
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis and treatment
- Prevention methods
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Dongwoo John Chang, M.D.


A stroke is a potentially life-threatening event in which part of the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. African Americans are at greater risk of stroke than any other ethnic group. African Americans also have both a higher likelihood of stroke at an earlier age and a greater risk of overall mortality compared to other ethnic groups.

Why African Americans have an increased risk of stroke when compared to other groups is not well-understood. Some studies have suggested that the effects of racism and poverty may play a role. In addition, African Americans are more likely to have medical and other risk factors associated with increased risk of stroke, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sickle cell anemia, smoking and obesity.


Signs and symptoms of stroke can vary, depending on the area of the brain affected by the stroke. Symptoms of stroke can occur suddenly and can include numbness or weakness on one side of the body, language difficulties, such as problems with speaking or understanding, and dizziness.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Anyone experiencing the symptoms of a stroke should be urged to call 9-1-1 immediately. Optimal stroke therapy is dependent on rapid treatment to re-establish blood flow to the brain. Once the patient is stabilized, the complete medical evaluation of a patient who has had a stroke can take several days. Patients who survive a stroke often need to undergo stroke rehabilitation to adequately manage the long-term effects of the event.

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States. However, 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by making lifestyle changes and taking proper precautions, according to the National Stroke Association. These include eating a well-balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise and not smoking.

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Review Date: 05-07-2007

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