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Infection Raises Risk Of Stroke Death For African-Americans

Update Date: Feb 08, 2014 03:48 PM EST

Infection contributes to an increased risk of stroke death in African-Americans compared to whites, according to a new study. 

The study found that African-Americans were 39 times more likely to die of a stroke when subjected to an infection, compared to whites who were four times more likely to die of the same cause. Hispanics were observed to be five times more likely to die of stroke after an infection. 

"Infection before stroke appears to be most lethal for black Americans," said lead author Deborah A. Levine, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of medicine in the division of general medicine in the U-M Medical School in the press release. "We know that African- Americans have a much greater risk of dying from a stroke than white Americans, and we wanted to know if infection - which research suggests is a stroke trigger - might contribute to this disparity."

According to researchers, most frequent infections were urinary, skin, and respiratory tract infections. These generally occurred within 30 days of a stroke. 

"Because of the higher stroke mortality rate among black Americans, there has been much attention on racial differences in vascular risk factors, like hypertension, and health behaviors but less attention on acute exposures that might contribute to racial differences in stroke deaths," Levine said.

70 percent of black Americans experienced an infection in the 30 days before stroke death. Researchers said infections occurred less often before stroke death in white Americans. 

Earlier studies suggested that respiratory infections were most potent triggers of stroke. However, in this study, urinary track infections and skin infections were found to be stronger contributors. 

"It is unclear why acute infection is more common, more lethal, or a more powerful trigger for stroke death in black Americans. Genetic risks, clinical, economic or environmental factors, and differences in access to health care are potential reasons. We need further studies to better understand this disparity so we can prevent more black Americans from dying of stroke, particularly after infection," Levine added. 

Findings of the study is published in the journal Neurology

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