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 Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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