Cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke are a major problem in America, but an area known as the Stroke Belt suffers from 34 percent higher risk than the rest of the country. This 11-state region spans across the South, with the highest prevalence in Mississippi. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia also make the list.
A stroke is essentially a brain attack (rather than a heart attack) that occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. Deprived of much-needed oxygen, brain cells begin to die and limit the brain’s ability for muscle control and memory. Strokes can range from minor, resulting only in temporary weakness of an arm or leg, to serious, resulting in permanent brain damage, paralysis, or death.
Why the Higher Risk in the Stroke Belt?
The Stroke Belt was first identified as a phenomenon in 1962 by the Centers for Disease Control. The statistics consistently show elevated incidence of stroke through the region, with stroke mortality more than 10 percent above the national average! Through the years, scientists have projected and rejected several hypotheses in an attempt to explain the Stroke Belt, like selenium deficiencies and rural medical challenges.
Today’s current beliefs are founded on the concept that these areas witness greater-than-average cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and diets rich in fatty fried foods.
Is Change on its Way?
The Stroke Belt Consortium (SBC) is working to unite health care providers and key leaders to tackle and solve the major issues preventative stroke care, treatment, and education in the Stroke Belt. They have spent the past twenty years championing for different prevention programs to improve the health of these residents. However, it’s a long road to change the behavior and habits of such a vast and complex population.