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Banner Health expert explains why Black Americans may face higher stroke risk

PHOENIX (Feb. 5, 2024) – During Black History Month, Banner Health will be highlighting some of the diseases that affect Black Americans, with the goal of raising awareness. A new article will be released on this topic every Monday. 

According to a recent study published by the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, Black Americans face higher stroke rates and on average, have strokes a decade earlier than their white counterparts. Stroke rates among the Black population remained 50% to 80% higher over the course of that 22-year study, particularly in younger and middle-aged adults. 

According to the American Stroke Association, more than half of Black Americans have high blood pressure, almost 70% of Black men and more than 80% of Black women are considered overweight or obese, nearly 25% of Black people have high cholesterol and are more likely to have diabetes; all which are contributing factors to having a stroke. 

But Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, a stroke neurologist at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix, notes that underlying medical issues aren’t the only reason for higher incidents of strokes among Black Americans. He adds there are genetic, lifestyle and socioeconomic elements that come into play as well. 

“If people don’t have access to healthy food or medication, that creates diseases [that lead to strokes],” Dr. Alexandrov said. “We’ve also learned that strokes do run in the family – so it's important to take note of your parent’s or grandparent’s health and engage in primary prevention.” 

Understanding & Prevention

“When a patient has a stroke, we need to understand why this happened, and what malfunctioned in the brain,” said Dr. Alexandrov. “Investigating a stroke is like hearing the shot, but now we’re looking for the smoking gun.” 

Blood tests, MRIs, blood vessel studies, ultrasounds, and CAT scans are needed to try to piece together a picture of what led a patient to a stroke. Once there are answers, patients are usually put on medication in response to the issue that caused their stroke in the first place. 

“Once we’ve done that, we encourage the patients to continue care with their primary care, and of course make lifestyle modifications such as diet, exercise, and smoking cessation, which includes secondhand smoke," Dr. Alexandrov said. 

More than 14% of Black adults smoke, increasing their risk of stroke between two and fourfold and fewer than half of Black adults meet the weekly exercise goals of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination of both), which increases their stroke risk as well. 

Overall, Dr. Alexandrov says he takes a comprehensive approach to treating and preventing future strokes – with an additional overview of occupational hazards, family history, and family support. 

“Depression is very common after having a stroke, so [we] have to intervene on multiple levels to prevent [patients] from coming back,” Dr. Alexandrov. 

About Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix
Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is a large teaching hospital that has provided medical care to Arizona and the Southwest since 1911. It is part of Banner – University Medicine, a premier academic medical network. The institution, which has trained thousands of doctors over decades as a teaching hospital, is the academic medical center for The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. The hospital, recognized by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s best hospitals, specializes in heart care, cancer care, high-risk obstetrics, neurosciences, organ transplants, medical toxicology and emergency care, including a Level I trauma center. Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix is part of Banner Health, a nonprofit health care system with 33 hospitals in six states. For more information, visit

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