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Geography May Be a Factor When it Comes to Stroke

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It may only come in at Number Four, but stroke still remains one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Stroke, along with cardiovascular disease, accounts for more than 800,000 deaths each year in the United States alone. (CDC 1)

While death rates from stroke have declined, there has been little reduction in the overall number of strokes that occur annually.

Despite a slight reported decline -- 2.7 percent to 2.6 percent between 2006 and 2010 -- the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that factors such as ethnicity and race, along with geography also play a role in the prevalence of stroke.

People in the Southeastern United States, which is also known as the "stroke belt", are more likely to suffer a stroke than people living in other areas of the United States.

South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Nevada reported the highest stroke rates in the United States. The lowest prevalence of stroke was found in the New England states, along with New York, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado, and Wyoming.

It’s believed that stroke rates are higher in the stroke belt states because the incidence of smoking, high blood pressure, and obesity are greater than in other states.

Hypertension, obesity, and smoking are known risk factors for stroke. Of course, they will increase the risk of stroke regardless of where you live within the US.

More people are surviving stroke in large part as the result of earlier diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect that you -- or someone close to you – may be experiencing a stroke, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Stroke symptoms include severe headache which comes on suddenly, difficulty seeing, dizziness, loss of balance, loss of coordination, difficulty walking, confusion, difficulty speaking or speech which isn’t easily understood.

In addition, stroke victims may experience numbness or weakness in the face, arms, or legs. The weakness may occur suddenly and be centered on one side of the body.


Steven Reinberg. Strokes more common in southern states. Health Day News. 25 May 2012. Retrieved from

Stroke. MedLine Plus, a service of the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2012.

Stroke Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012.

FastStats: Leading Causes of Death. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 27 Jan 2012.

Reviewed August 20, 2012
by MIchele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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