Stroke Survival: Advantage for Blacks?

In a London stroke study, blacks were more likely to survive their first stroke than whites.

Blacks were more likely to have a first stroke, but "being black was generally associated with better survival," even considering other factors, write the researchers inBMJ Online First.

Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in the U.S. In 2002, more black men and women died of stroke than whites, according to the CDC. The CDC numbers don't state whether those people died from their first stroke.

Read WebMD's "What Is a Stroke? Get the Facts"

Better Survival for Blacks in South London

Data came from a registry of south London residents who had their first stroke between 1995 and 2002. The list included more than 2,300 people.

"In general, black patients in a south London population with first-ever stroke are more likely to survive than white patients," write the researchers. Exceptions were patients younger than 65 and those who didn't function well on their own before the stroke.

Smoking, diabetes, and a host of other factors can make stroke more likely. Those factors didn't affect the risk of death from a first stroke.

Blacks were more likely to be admitted to a stroke unit, write the researchers. It's possible that healthy black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean may have made a difference.

The researchers call for a more detailed look at race, stroke, and social and economic factors.

Blacks Are More Likely to Have Strokes

In the study, blacks were more likely than whites to have a first stroke.

The same is true in the U.S. Blacks are almost twice as likely to have a first stroke as whites, states a 2005 report from the American Stroke Association and American Heart Association.

Read WebMD's "New Blood Test Predicts Stroke Risk"

Emergency Care May Help

When strokes don't kill, they may cause severe disability. Emergency treatment may make a big difference, so get emergency medical help right away at the first sign of a stroke.

The American Stroke Association says stroke signs include:

— Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body

— Sudden confusion, trouble with speaking, or trouble with understanding

— Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

— Sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, or trouble with walking

— Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Read WebMD's "Cholesterol Drugs Help Stroke Recovery"

Improving Your Odds

People of any race can take steps to help avoid stroke:

— Check your blood pressure. You may feel fine but have high blood pressure.

— Control high blood pressure.

— Don't smoke.

— Control diabetes.

— Lose excess weight.

— Don't drink too much alcohol.

— Curb high LDL "bad" cholesterol.

— Be active.

— Eat healthfully.

— Get medical checkups and take medications as prescribed.

A lot of these steps may sound familiar. They're cornerstones of healthy living that could also cut your risk of heart disease and other conditions.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

SOURCES: Wolfe, C. BMJ Online First, July 28, 2005. CDC, "Stroke Fact Sheet." American Stroke Association and American Heart Association, "Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics — 2005 Update." WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Stroke — Prevention."