Background and purpose: Excess mortality resulting from stroke is an important reason why blacks have higher age-adjusted mortality rates than whites. This observation has 2 possible explanations: Strokes occur more commonly among blacks or blacks have higher mortality rates after stroke. Our population-based epidemiological study is set in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region of 1.31 million people, which is representative of the US white and black populations with regard to many demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.
Methods: Hospitalized cases were ascertained by International Classification of Diseases (ninth revision) discharge codes, prospective screening of emergency department admission logs, and review of coroner's cases. A sampling scheme was used to ascertain cases in the out-of-hospital setting. All potential cases underwent detailed chart abstraction by study nurses, followed by physician review. Race-specific incidence and case fatality rates were calculated.
Results: We identified 3136 strokes during the study period (January 1, 1993, to June 30, 1994). Stroke incidence rates were higher for blacks at every age, with the greatest risk (2- to 5-fold) seen in young and middle-aged blacks (<65 years of age). Case fatality rates did not differ significantly in blacks compared with whites. Applying the resulting age- and race-specific rates to the US population in 2002, we estimate that 705,000 to 740,000 strokes have occurred in the United States, with a minimum of 616,000 cerebral infarctions, 67,000 intracerebral hemorrhages, and 22,000 subarachnoid hemorrhages.
Conclusions: Excess stroke-related mortality in blacks is due to higher stroke incidence rates, particularly in the young and middle-aged. This excess burden of stroke incidence among blacks represents one of the most serious public health problems facing the United States.