American Indian adults face increased stroke risk compared to other racial, ethnic groups, study finds

A study of nearly 17 million people found that American Indian adults have a 47 percent increased risk of non-hemorrhagic stroke compared to people from other racial and ethnic groups, according to findings published March 2 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The heightened risk for American Indian adults remained even among those who did not have atrial fibrillation — a known stroke risk factor. 

Researchers analyzed medical records of nearly 17 million adults who were treated at California hospitals between Jan. 1, 2005, and Dec. 31, 2011, with a median follow-up period of 4.1 years. 

There were 166,826 non-bleeding strokes during the follow-up period, 36,950 of which occurred in patients with AFib. Results showed American Indians had a 47 percent increased risk of non-hemorrhagic stroke compared to other groups. 

Findings also showed American Indian adults with AFib had a 38 percent higher risk of stroke compared to people in other racial and ethnic groups who had the heart condition. 

While AFib is a risk factor for stroke, it could not entirely explain the heightened risk among American Indian adults, as findings also showed those without the condition had a 59 percent higher stroke risk. 

"The results of our study add to the growing body of evidence that race and ethnicity are important factors when assessing stroke risk," said Gregory Marcus, MD, lead study author and cardiologist at UC San Francisco. "However, our findings that conventional risk factors such as AFib may not be the cause for this increased risk among American Indian individuals, suggest other influences are at play. These could possibly be related to hereditary factors, environmental exposures or disparities in access to healthcare, and this clearly warrants further attention." 

To view the full study, click here.

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