stroke, black women

Study: Interpersonal Racism Tied To 38% Higher Stroke Risk in Black Women Over 22 Years

The Boston University study examined how “perceived interpersonal racism” can be linked to increasing numbers in strokes among Black women

New research found that there was a 38% increase in stroke incidence among Black women who experienced interpersonal racism over 22 years.

In a cohort study published in JAMA Network Open, a group of colleagues and doctors from Boston University suggested that “the high burden of racism experienced by Black U.S. individuals may contribute to racial disparities in stroke incidence.” The authors examined how “perceived interpersonal racism” in employment, housing, and interactions with police can be linked to increasing numbers of strokes among Black women.

In 1997, 48,375 middle-aged participants in the Black Women’s Health Study reported on perceived interpersonal racism and were “free of cardiovascular disease and cancer.” During a 22-year follow-up, there were 1,664 stroke incident cases, with 550 definite cases confirmed by a neurologist and/or National Death Index linkage.

As discussed in the research, it is important to consider that Black individuals face stroke and stroke-related mortality more frequently than other racial groups. In 2018, African American women were twice as likely to have a stroke as compared to non-Hispanic white women, based on the data by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Earlier this year, BLACK ENTERPRISE previously reported on a case of a North Carolina new mom who suffered several strokes and seizures. Following the delivery of her baby son, Leslie Jordan had slurred speech, loss of mobility, intense pain, and preeclampsia. Over four years later, Jordan is still recovering from brain damage with the help of her husband, going to doctors’ appointments, and continuing rehab. She said that her mothering “didn’t really start until my son was 3 years old because I didn’t have the capability.” So, she advises other mothers to take their health seriously.

Jordan’s circumstances are related to many other Black moms who may have experienced structural racism and self-reported experience of racial discrimination. However, exposure to perceived stress during pregnancy can lead to the risk of having a preterm or low-birthweight infant. 

The cohort study further explained that racism and poverty are recognized as social determinants. In fact, “disproportionate numbers of Black US individuals face multiple adverse experiences over the life course.” Those who experience racism in their everyday lives have a higher stroke risk.

“A total of 27,155 women (59%) perceived racism in employment, 16,109 (35%) perceived racism in housing, and 11,046 (24%) perceived racism in interactions with police,” the study read.

Notably, women who reported racism in all three domains were more likely to reside in “high SES [socioeconomic status] neighborhoods, less likely to live in the South, and more likely to have a higher educational level than those who reported no such experience.”

In the analysis of perceived interpersonal racism about stroke incidents, authors recommended future studies among Black women with lower levels of education.

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