ARIZONA NEWS

Black Arizonans more at risk of developing strokes than other racial groups, Valley doctor says

Feb 19, 2024, 6:30 AM | Updated: Feb 20, 2024, 9:31 am

strokes risk Black Americans Arizona Valley doctor...

Black Americans are at a greater risk of getting a stroke than any other racial group, researchers say. (Kampus Production photo/via Pexels)

(Kampus Production photo/via Pexels)

PHOENIX — Black Americans have a higher prevalence of strokes than any other racial group, according to a vascular neurologist in the Valley.

They also have the highest risk of dying from strokes, Banner Vascular Neurologist Andrei Alexandrov told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“In African Americans, we actually notice the stroke incidences not going down as we want,” Alexandrov said. “Actually, the strokes are getting younger. Younger folks are getting strokes.”

There are a few different reasons for this. Firstly, medical professionals may not know the ins and outs of how to treat patients properly. Secondly, Black Americans are more likely to be on the wrong blood pressure medication, he added.

“A lot of education needs to happen not only among the community, but also among physicians who take care of African American patients,” Alexandrov said. “They need to know the types of hypertension and the types of medicines they need to be on to be more specific and more effective to get blood sugar under control.”

Blood sugar diabetes is another reason why Black Americans face an increased stroke risk. They’re 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than white Americans, according to Northwestern Medicine.

A healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and nutritious foods is critical for getting diabetes under control. One’s socioeconomic status can make that hard, he said.

“Here in Phoenix, we have areas that are called food deserts. In other words, people do not have easy access to food, not to mention healthy food,” he said. “If income is limited, if mobility is limited, it becomes kind of a situation that can worsen diabetes.”

Smoking can also boost the risk of developing strokes

One in eight Black Americans smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Think about what that number means for a family, Alexandrov said. Someone who smokes in a home can expose others to secondhand smoke, which can be dangerous. That’s why physicians and family members should work together to promote living a healthy lifestyle and stopping the smoke, he added.

Luckily, there are a few ways to be healthier and reduce one’s personal risk, Alexandrov said.

“Do not cook with salt. Remove salt from the table,” he said. “Once a stroke or warnings of a stroke occur in life, patients and families need to know signs and symptoms of stroke.”

Weakness in the face and arms are big signs someone is at risk of getting a stroke, he said. Speech problems are another giveaway. If you see someone with these symptoms, don’t call 911, he said — take them to one of Banner Health’s stroke centers.

“As doctors, we will start secondary prevention,” he said. Essentially, medical professionals will determine which specific mechanisms in the patient’s body put them at risk. They’ll put patients on a personalized medication plan, he added.

Don’t delay health checks, he said. Eat healthy food, quit smoking, avoid drugs and get 150 minutes of exercise a week, Alexandrov said.

He also advised Black Americans to research sickle cell anemia.

“If sickle cell runs in the family, please seek the attention of a pediatric specialist for your child,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Kate Ourada contributed to this story.

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Black Arizonans more at risk of developing strokes than other racial groups, Valley doctor says