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The Prevalence of Strokes in the Black Community

by Morgan Ellis

African Americans have the highest prevalence of strokes and death rates from strokes than any other racial group. To understand why this is happening and what can be done about it, here is some information that sheds light on the issue.


What is a stroke?

The first topic that needs to be covered what a stroke actually is. There are two main causes of stroke, a blocked artery, which is called an ischemic stroke or leaking or bursting of a blood vessel which is called a hemorrhagic stroke. When a stroke happens brain cells start to die and brain function is lost. When that happens people struggle with basic functions that are controlled in the brain, like the ability to walk, eat and speak.


What are the signs of stroke?

Some signs of a stroke are:

Trouble speaking and understanding what people are saying: If someone is experiencing a stroke they would show confusion or having trouble understanding speech.


Paralysis in the arm face or/and leg: People may experience a numbness, weakness or some form of paralysis in the face, arm or leg, which oftentimes affects only one side of the body. Try to raise both arms that the same time and if one falls down then there is a possibility that a stroke is occurring. Another sign is when one side of someone’s mouth may droop when they are trying to smile.


Problems seeing in one or both eyes: There may be either blackened vision or blurred vision in their eyes. They may also see double.


Trouble walking: They may stumble and lose their balance, you also have sudden dizziness or a loss of coordination.


How does it affect African-Americans?

Many risk factors that are associated with strokes, like high blood pressure, and diabetes are prevalent in the black community. Below are some of the reasons that black people are more susceptible to strokes than any other demographic.


High Blood Pressure:

As a result of biological and genetic differences African Americans do have a higher sensitivity to salt and its effects on blood pressure. Not only that but Americans in general consume a higher level of sodium, so that does create a negative combination of effects on high blood pressure. Many socioeconomic aspects do affect African American too like poverty which limits the amount of health food options that can be made and lower levels of income and education which also lead to not knowing how to lead a healthy lifestyle. These factors make African American more susceptible to obesity and other blood or heart diseases.


Sickle Cell Disease

Many people of African Descent have the trait or the disease of the genetic disorder called Sickle Cell Disease, which deprives the blood and organs of oxygen. The lack of oxygen forces the heart to work harder which makes people more susceptible to high blood pressure and heart disease.



Black people are dispportionally effected by obesity. Environmental factors are oftentimes is attributed to obesity, which may mean the lack of gyms or parks as well as the lack of supermarkets that create access to healthy lifestyles. Another aspect is a result of the stress and racism that black people face, which has them retain more weight.


How can This Be Helped?

One of the main contributors to strokes is having high blood pressure, so it is important to watch sodium intake as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle that incorporates fruits, vegetables and exercise. There are so many external factors like the environment that a people live in, so it is important that resources can be provided to create a more accessible way for healthy living, and meeting with their primary physician as often as they need to.

Morgan Ellis is a current undergraduate student at Spelman College pursuing an English degree with the plans of becoming a physician. She is passionate about enhancing the accessibility to healthcare, through writing, research and mentoring. This led her to join Emory University’s Health Career Collaborative where she mentored high school students, who have interest in the healthcare fields, fostering their interest in medicine, science and public health. She has also contributed her talents to the MGH Youth Neurology Research Program, where she worked with cutting edge technology, through interactive learning sessions in neurology. As a Senior Contributor at Today's Patient, Morgan strives to write about medicine and medical issues to ensure that readers get factual information to help them navigate the healthcare system.

December page 5

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