New York State Department of Health Urges New Yorkers to Recognize Risk Factors and Make Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke in Recognition of World Stroke Day

Stroke is a Leading Cause of Death in New York with Higher Prevalence Among Black Americans Than Non-Hispanic Whites, According to New Report

Learn More About Stroke Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatments Here

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 28, 2022) – The New York State Department of Health encourages all New Yorkers to be aware of the risk factors for stroke ahead of World Stroke Day on October 29. Stroke is a cardiovascular disease (CVD) that involves the circulatory system and occurs when a clot blocks blood supply to the brain or when a blood vessel bursts and causes internal bleeding in the brain.

An annual survey conducted by the State Health Department found an estimated 1,118,000 adults, or 7 percent had a heart attack, angina/coronary heart disease or stroke in 2020. The report acknowledges stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the State and that CVD accounted for 32 percent of all deaths in New York, with the incidence of CVD significantly higher for those aged 65 and older.

Stroke prevalence is also nearly twice as high among non-Hispanic Black adults than non-Hispanic White adults. The annual survey also concluded that men, adults with less than a college education, and adults who experience food insecurity are more likely to report a heart attack, coronary heart disease or stroke than women, adults with a college education, and adults with food security.

"Stroke is a deadly health emergency that has a significant impact on communities of color. The State Health Department remains resolute in its commitment to eliminate the systemic inequities that contribute to disparities in health outcomes," State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said. "We will continue to pursue and promote equity in health care to improve health care and overall health for all New Yorkers."

As a result of these systemic inequities in health care, according to the American Stroke Association, Black Americans have a higher prevalence of stroke and the highest death rate from stroke than any other racial group, with more than two-thirds of Black Americans having at least one of these risk factors:

  • High blood pressure – Over half of Black adults have high blood pressure, which develops earlier in Black Americans and is often more severe.
  • Overweight and obesity – Almost 70 percent of Black men and more than 80 percent of Black women are overweight or obese.
  • Diabetes – African Americans are more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
  • High cholesterol – Nearly 30 percent of Black Americans have high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol.
  • Smoking – More than 15 percent of Black adults smoke, doubling their risk of stroke.
  • Eating too much salt (sodium) – Research shows that African Americans may have a gene that greatly increases sensitivity to salt and its effects.
  • Stress – African American adults face daily stressors that may increase risk for stroke.
  • Sickle cell anemia – This common genetic disorder in African Americans is a risk factor for stroke because the disorder causes some red block cells to form an abnormal shape that can get stuck in blood vessels and block the flow of blood to the brain.

Individuals with these risk factors should discuss the best ways to manage them with their health care providers and follow recommendations, including taking medications as prescribed. Additionally, the State report acknowledges these lifestyle changes can reduce the likelihood of stroke and prevent as much as 80 percent of heart disease and stroke:

  • Eating more fruits and vegetables.
  • Reducing salt intake.
  • Increasing physical activity.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Losing excess body weight.
  • Managing stress.

To improve prevention, treatment and community education, the State manages a data-driven quality improvement program focused on stroke. The New York State Coverdell Stroke Program is aimed at developing comprehensive systems to identify and resolve gaps in stroke systems of care and implement strategies to eliminate disparities in care. It is one of only 13 such programs in the U.S. funded through the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor care delivered to stroke patients, improve the quality of that care and reduce the burden of stroke.

Additional information and resources are available online:

  • This State brochure can help identify when someone is having a stroke.
  • The department's stroke website has additional information on stroke symptoms, risk factors and treatments.
  • The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website features a special campaign, "Live to the Beat", focused on reducing the risk of CVD among Black adults.
  • The American Heart Association issued a presidential advisory acknowledging structural racism as a fundamental driver of health disparities in stroke and heart disease.