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Death zone for stroke.

Researchers know that people who live in the stroke belt, an 8- to 10-state region in the southeastern United States, face a higher-than-average risk of stroke. A new study identifies a zone within that belt where the risk of dying from a stroke is particularly high.

George Howard of Wake Forest University's Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his colleagues define this zone as a 153-county area in the coastal plains sectors of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. People in this zone who are 35 to 54 years old face twice the national average risk of dying from stroke. That extra risk translates to about 1,000 more stroke deaths per year, Howard says.

Although the researchers looked only at deaths, they believe the risk of suffering a nonfatal stroke in this region is also much higher than average. They report their findings in the May Stroke.

Scientists had previously suggested that the below-average socioeconomic status of the Southeast accounts for the higher-than-average risk of stroke, but the new research shows that poverty does not fully explain the extra deaths.

Howard identifies some possible reasons for the excess risk. People living in the region may have inherited a genetic vulnerability to the disorder, something in the environment may trigger an increased risk, or the risk may stem from a lifestyle factor common to the area, such as smoking.

This study doesn't provide answers to the mystery. "There's no concerted national effort to figure out what's going on here," Howard says. He believes there should be.
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Title Annotation:area in Southeast with high risk of stroke identified
Author:Fackelmann, Kathleen
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:May 17, 1997
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