Middle-aged black Americans have higher chances of dying from stroke than their white counterparts not because of discrimination in care, but because of an elevated stroke rate, new research suggests.

Few studies have investigated whether the increased stroke rate among black Americans explains why there are more deaths from stroke.

Now, the new report examined why blacks and Southerners are more likely to die from the brain attack. Researchers reviewed random data from nearly 30,000 people across the United States.

Known as REGARDS or Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke, the study was conducted between 2003 and 2007.

Researchers employed a combination of mail and telephone interviews to assess participants' risk factors. These were followed by in-home visits to gather biological samples, as well as measure height, waist circumference and blood pressure.

In the end, the team discovered that the risk is higher among blacks at 45 years old, when they are four times more likely to die of stroke than whites. However, at age 85, the stroke death rates between blacks and white became the same.

Why was there such a high risk for black Americans? The study says it's because most strokes among blacks occurred at younger ages. The details of the new study are featured in the journal Stroke.

Prevention Is Still The Best Method

Professor George Howard, author of the study, says the scale of public health burden in the aspect of racial disparity was "staggering," with about 22,384 more stroke events for blacks compared to whites.

Howard says that with the life-long cost of each stroke event at $104,000, the difference between blacks and whites costs the U.S. more than $2.3 billion yearly.

He blamed racial differences in the development of risk factors and encouraged stricter prevention efforts. He also mentioned that most of the resources for research are focused on preventing recurrent stroke and treating stroke patients.

Because of this, Howard says the government needs to boost prevention and control efforts to alleviate the risk factors that are much more common among blacks, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Past studies have found that following a Mediterranean diet — high consumption of vegetables and olive oil — may lower risk for stroke and heart attack. Eating fruits daily may also have the same effect.

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