Those Living in Stroke Belt at Higher Risk for Cognitive Impairment

It has long been established that people living in the “Stroke Belt”, which includes Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina and North Carolina, are at an increased risk for stroke. Now, a new study, suggests that they may also be at a higher risk for cognitive impairment as well. Researchers believe there are several contributing factors that put people living in this 11 state region at greater risk for cognitive and cardiovascular impairment. The Stroke Belt first came to the attention of the medical world in the 1960’s, when factors such as high fat diet, poor quality of health care, cultural lifestyle, hypertension, smoking and lower socioeconomic conditions, led to the discovery of a 50 percent higher stroke mortality rate than in other parts of the country.

The new study, The Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS), examined the cognitive and cardiovascular decline of more than 30,000 people over a four year period. “Our study is the first to document higher incidence of cognitive impairment in the Stroke Belt compared to remaining U.S. regions,” said researcher Virginia Wadley, Ph.D. The researchers looked at the brain function of the participants in order to determine cognitive impairment and discovered that those living in the Stroke Belt were more likely to show cognitive impairment, with 18 percent of those in that region showing diminished cognitive ability.

The researchers hope that this new information will lead to better mental health services and treatment options for those living in this high risk region. “Investigating regional patterns that contribute to modifiable risk factors affecting cognitive decline will allow for prevention and intervention efforts that are geographically concentrated,” Wadley said. “Information obtained from the REGARDS study can be used to develop services for older Americans at both local and national levels to improve outcomes for those most vulnerable to diminished cognitive function.”

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Kelli


    May 31st, 2011 at 3:26 PM

    Cognitive impairment before or after the stroke episodes?

  • DK


    May 31st, 2011 at 11:50 PM

    Although no two regions are similar in the occurrence of health issues,this entire stroke belt is baffling. There is such a contrast in occurrences of stroke in this region compared to the rest of the country. I am just surprised they don’t have any special programs for these regions in place already!

  • carla


    June 1st, 2011 at 3:41 AM

    health advisories could be given to these states and proper programs that are tailor made to suit this risky belt could be initiated.

    while there may be areas where health risks are higher it is the duty of the authorities to try and being it under control using suitable measures,you know!the very fact that this ‘stroke belt’ still exists even after half a century(close to two generations) is a disappointment.

  • Ally


    June 2nd, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    So what is the reason for this difference in the region? Do we have any clue yet?

  • Eric Pickett

    Eric Pickett

    June 5th, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    You know you have idiots in charge when an entire belt of the country is having more 50% strokes than everywhere else and here we are, five decades later, and it remains unresolved.

    If I lived there I’d be asking the politicians to explain that or not count on my vote.

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