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Risk of Stroke May Be Due to Childhood Residence

Higher stroke rates in adults is associated with living in seven southern states at anytime throughout life

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People who grew up in the group of seven southern states known as the "Stroke Belt" or who live there as adults are at greater risk of stroke than people elsewhere in the United States, according to a report in the September issue of Stroke.

Lisa F. Berkman, Ph.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues followed 18,070 participants aged 50 and older (average age 63) in the Health and Retirement Study who were stroke-free at enrollment. After an average follow-up period of 8.4 years, 1,452 first strokes were recorded.

Participants who lived in Stroke Belt states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama) as children but not as adults had a 25 percent greater risk of stroke than people who had never lived there (hazard ratio, 1.25). The risk was similar for those who lived in the Stroke Belt both in childhood and at enrollment (HR, 1.23). These estimates did not differ significantly when adjusted for socioeconomic status or for measured cardiovascular risk factors.

"Behavioral norms regarding diet, physical activity, and smoking are profoundly influenced by childhood social conditions, so these factors are prime candidates to explain the Stroke Belt risk," the authors conclude.

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