Rural/urban differences in the prevalence of stroke risk factors: A cross-sectional analysis from the REGARDS study

J Rural Health. 2022 Jun;38(3):668-673. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12608. Epub 2021 Jul 16.


Purpose: We previously described the magnitude of rural-urban differences in the prevalence of stroke risk factors and stroke mortality. In this report, we sought to extend the understanding of rural-urban differences in the prevalence of stroke risk factors by using an enhanced definition of rural-urban status and assessing the impact of neighborhood socioeconomic status (nSES) on risk factor differences.

Methods: This analysis included 28,242 participants without a history of stroke from the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) cohort. Participants were categorized into the 6-level ordinal National Center for Health Statistics Urban-Rural Classification Scheme. The prevalence of stroke risk factors (hypertension, diabetes, smoking, atrial fibrillation, left ventricular hypertrophy, and heart disease) was assessed across the rural-urban scale with adjustment for demographic characteristics and further adjustment for nSES score.

Findings: Hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease were more prevalent in rural than urban regions. Higher odds were observed for these risk factors in the most rural compared to the most urban areas (odds ratios [95% CI]: 1.25 [1.11-1.42] for hypertension, 1.15 [0.99-1.33] for diabetes, and 1.19 [1.02-1.39] for heart disease). Adjustment for nSES score partially attenuated the odds of hypertension and heart disease with rurality, completely attenuated the odds of diabetes, and unmasked an association of current smoking.

Conclusions: Some of the higher stroke mortality in rural areas may be due to the higher burden of stroke risk factors in rural areas. Lower nSES contributed most notably to rural-urban differences for diabetes and smoking.

Keywords: cardiovascular; risk factors; rural population; social class; stroke.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / epidemiology
  • Heart Diseases* / complications
  • Humans
  • Hypertension* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Population
  • Stroke* / epidemiology
  • Urban Population