Stroke: A Story of Racial Inequality

March 25, 2020

Stroke is still the leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 140,000 Americans each year. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke and every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.

Two major risk factors of stroke, high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and diabetes, have each been well studied. However, new research shows that these two traditional stroke factors impact people of various races differently. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine studied a group of over 2,100 adults ages 18-49 in the Baltimore-Washington,D.C. Results indicated that hypertension had the largest impact on stroke amongAfrican American men compared to African American women, white men, and white women---regardless of age. The proportion of stroke incidence due to hypertension was 45.8% for African American men, 26.4% for African American women, 17.2% for white men and 19.3% for white women. For diabetes, AfricanAmerican men seemed again to be at highest risk for having a stroke. The proportion of stroke due to diabetes among black men was 17.2%, compared to13.4% for black women, 10.5% for white men and just 7.4% for white women. “The new findings point to a need for greater public health initiatives targeted to African Americans of all ages,” said lead investigator Elizabeth Aradine, a vascular neurology fellow at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. 

It is true that African Americans are expected to live on average 3.4 fewer years than their white peers, in part due to the greater incidence of heart disease and stroke among them. Although public health education programs have long targeted this population, the incidence of stroke remains high. As many AfricanAmericans who suffer stroke as a result of high blood pressure, diabetes, and other risk factors such as smoking, obesity etc. also experience lower income and limited access to health care resources; it is especially critical that today’s medical technology is able to limit the debilitating consequences of stroke and improve recovery time and cost.

 One such technology that is currently being developed is namedBXT-25, a molecule that has the ability to address oxygen deprivation by binding to oxygen molecules in the lungs and transporting oxygen to affected areas of the brain. Engineered to be 1/5000 the size of red blood cells and able to navigate more easily through arteries blocked by clots or other obstructions, BXT-25 binds to oxygen molecules as blood passes through the lungs and carries oxygen effectively to all the body’s vital organs. The molecule can be injected intravenously and most importantly, it is meant to take effect within the critical golden hour following stroke, thereby lessening the risk of death, debilitation, or a long recovery process. Truly an innovation that knows no distinction between race, gender, or class, BXT-25 could finally tip the scales of stroke prevalence among difference races in America in a healthier direction.