Photo courtesy of EB Johnson
African Americans are at particularly high risk of stroke, but even after experiencing one, many patients don’t get their blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes under control, according to a US study.
The researchers note that control of such risk factors in general could prevent many of the 1.1 million heart attacks and 731,000 strokes that occur in the United States every year.
In the study, researchers from Rush University in Chicago looked at more than 1,000 African-American stroke patients enrolled in a study of anti-clotting drugs. Ruland’s team was not concerned with the drug results, but instead looked at awareness and control of risk factors by the patients.
“We know from previous studies, both for primary prevention and prevention of recurrent heart attack and stroke, that real aggressive risk factor reduction will lead to fewer events,” researchers say.
While 73% of study participants known to have high blood pressure were taking medication to control it, just 30% had actually brought their blood pressure down to or below normal levels.
Medication may not have been effective in lowering blood pressure because “the treatment strategy wasn’t aggressive enough,” according to researchers. They says that may be due to attitudes of both the physician and patient, lack of follow-up care and poor patient compliance in taking prescriptions.
Less than half of the patients with known high cholesterol were taking medication for the problem. Most who were prescribed drugs were taking cholesterol-lowering statins, but they were effective in only about two-thirds of patients. In addition, one quarter of the patients with high cholesterol did not know it.
Of the 40% of study participants with known diabetes, 84% reported being on some type of medication. Among the diabetic patients whose blood glucose was checked, one third did not have it under control. In the remaining 60% of the patients who did not have diabetes, 2% were at high risk for developing the disease.
According to researchers, previous studies have shown that African Americans who have had a stroke are more likely to have two or more risk factors.