Stroke :: Significant differences in stroke prevalence among U.S. States and Territories

Stroke prevalence varies widely from state to state, with some states and U.S. territories having more than double the stroke prevalence of others, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, “Prevalence of Stroke – United States, 2005,” published in CDC?s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, provides the first data on the percentage of stroke survivors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

The study analyzed state-specific data for adults 18 and older collected from the 2005 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Stroke prevalence ranged from a low of 1.5 percent in Connecticut to a high of 4.3 percent in Mississippi.

“Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of serious long-term disability,” said Jonathan Neyer, the study?s lead author and an epidemiologist in CDC?s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. “These findings reaffirm the importance and need for people to take steps to reduce their risk of stroke. Avoiding tobacco use, being physically active, and maintaining healthy weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are steps everyone can take to lower their risk.”

A stroke occurs when either the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing damage to a part of the brain. According to Neyer, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, smoking, diabetes and atrial fibrillation, an irregular beating of the upper chambers of the heart, are some of the major risk factors for stroke. About 700,000 strokes occur in the United States each year. About 500,000 of these are first or new strokes. About 200,000 occur in people who have already had a stroke. Over 160,000 people die each year from stroke in the United States.

Nearly one out of four states, including the District of Columbia, had a high stroke prevalence of 3 percent and above. These include Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

The lowest levels of stroke prevalence (less than the median of 2.6 percent) were found in Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

The prevalence of stroke was similar among men (2.7 percent) and women (2.5 percent). American Indian/Alaska Natives had the highest stroke prevalence (6 percent), while the prevalence of stroke in blacks (4.0 percent) was almost twice that of whites (2.3 percent), with Asians having the lowest rate (1.6 percent). Stroke prevalence was more than twice as high in individuals with fewer than 12 years of education (4.4 percent) compared to college graduates (1.8 percent).

CDC works with nearly 80 national organizations through the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention to achieve national Healthy People 2010 goals for preventing heart disease and stroke. CDC provides funding to state health departments in 32 states and the District of Columbia, as well as three stroke networks comprised of 14 states, to support educational programs, policies, environmental strategies and systems changes that address stroke. CDC?s WISEWOMAN program funds 15 projects across the country that provide low income, underinsured and uninsured women (aged 40-64 years) with risk factor screening, lifestyle intervention strategies and referral services to reduce their risk for stroke.

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