The coastal plains of Georgia and the Carolinas have the highest rate of stroke deaths in the nation, with middle-age people twice as likely as those in the rest of the country to die that way, a study found.
Scientists have known since the 1960s that the three states and five others in the Southeast have higherthan-average death rates from stroke. Dubbed the “Stroke Belt,” the region also includes Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
When investigators at Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., tried to find out whether poverty and poor education played a role, they found a zone-within-a-zone of even higher stroke death rates.
They called the 153-county area the “buckle” of the Stroke Belt.
The rate of stroke deaths in the buckle was 2.1 times higher among people 35 to 54 than the average for the same age group in 42 states outside the Southeast. For people ages 55 to 74, the rate was 1.7 times.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study, published in today’s issue of Stroke, a journal of the Dallas-based American Heart Association. The researchers got their data from death records and the census.
Scientists believe the higher death rates are somehow connected to quality of life because they occur in counties with lower-than-average family income and education.
But the Bowman Gray team found that less than 16 percent of the additional risk in the Stroke Belt could be explained by lower socioeconomic status.