Mexican Americans face stroke risk

Middle-aged Mexican Americans have roughly double the risk of stroke that non-Hispanic whites do, data from a Texas county suggest.

Lewis B. Morgenstern of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his colleagues used interviews and medical records to track strokes in Nueces County, Texas. After comparing the number of strokes with local census figures, the researchers found that Mexican Americans between the ages of 45 and 59 had twice the incidence of stroke as did similar-age non-Hispanic whites. Mexican Americans between 60 and 74 had roughly 60 percent more strokes than did non-Hispanic whites. Risk was equal among people over age 75.

The rate of diabetes among this Mexican-American population is 6 percent higher than that among non-Hispanic whites of the same age, but Morgenstern says that this difference probably explains only a small part of the increased stroke risk. His group reports its findings in the Aug. 15 American Journal of Epidemiology.

Indeed, the reason for the disparity isn’t clear, he says. In Nueces County, incidences of high blood pressure and high cholesterol among Mexican Americans are similar to those of non-Hispanic whites of similar age.

Also, most of the Mexican Americans in the county, which is not near the Mexican border, are second- and third-generation U.S. residents, not illegal aliens who might be disinclined to seek medical care, Morgenstern says.

However, interviews showed that Mexican Americans were less likely to call 911 in an emergency than were non-Hispanic whites.

“We’ll continue to look at both social and biological factors” that might explain the difference in stroke incidence, Morgenstern says.

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