Experts Say Stroke Care Differs for U.S. Minorities

Variations span from less awareness of symptoms to slower delivery of treatment, report finds

THURSDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Wide differences in care for people who've had a stroke still exist between whites and ethnic minorities in the United States, according to a joint report issued by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

"We see disparities in every aspect of stroke care, from lack of awareness of stroke risk factors and symptoms to delayed arrival to the emergency room and increased waiting time," Dr. Salvador Cruz-Flores, lead author of the report and director of the Souers Stroke Institute at St. Louis University, said in a Heart Association statement. "These disparities continue throughout the spectrum of the delivery of care, from acute treatment to rehabilitation."

The report pointed out that risk factors vary among racial and ethnic groups. African Americans have a higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, which are all risk factors for stroke, for example, whereas Hispanic Americans are at higher risk for diabetes and a condition called metabolic syndrome, which boosts the risk for heart conditions.

"It is important for members of ethnic and racial minority groups to understand they are particularly predisposed to have risk factors for heart disease and stroke," Cruz-Flores said. "They need to understand these diseases are preventable and treatable."

The report, published online May 26 in Stroke, recommends new policies to close the gap in stroke care, more education and research in the area -- especially in regard to American Indians, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders -- and better access to health insurance.

"It is striking that we are in the 21st century, with many advances in stroke care, yet we are still struggling to fix the differences that are present not only in the distribution of the disease but also in the level of care we provide to the different racial and ethnic groups," Cruz-Flores said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about stroke.

Randy Dotinga SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 26, 2011

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