State researchers found in a multiyear study that economic environment and education are tied to an increased risk of stroke death more than the commonly cited factors of hypertension and ethnicity.
The study — conducted by officials at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health, the College of Medicine and the Arkansas Department of Health and published in the October issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes — analyzed 8,930 stroke deaths in Arkansas from 2005 to 2009.
Researchers, using U.S. Census data at the neighborhood block level, found that low educational attainment and neighborhood poverty increase the risk of stroke death more than ethnicity, according to the news release. Hypertension, high cholesterol levels and being black had traditionally been associated with higher stroke-death risk, researchers say.
"The findings are significant," said UAMS researcher Appathurai Balamurugan, who led the study. "Neighborhood poverty and low educational attainment is as important as blood pressure control when it comes to deaths due to stroke."
UAMS said the study, which pinpointed Arkansas neighborhoods with the highest rates of stroke death and analyzed those census blocks, was the first to analyze the risk at that level. It found a wide variation — sometimes up to a fourfold difference — in death risks between adjacent neighborhoods, UAMS said.
The study's data came from the Vital Statistics branch of the Arkansas Department of Health and the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the release states.