FRIDAY, April 6, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Americans who don't have health insurance may have an increased risk of stroke.
So says a new study in the April issue of the Journal of the Society of General Internal Medicine.
People without health insurance are more likely to forego routine physical exams and to be unaware of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels, the researchers said.
"Hypertension is the most powerful risk factor for stroke, and, in our study, we found that hypertension was significantly less likely to be well controlled in those lacking insurance," study lead author Dr. Angela Fowler-Brown said in a prepared statement. She is a physician in the division of general medicine and primary care at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The prospective study of 15,792 people in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities database identified a significant statistical relationship between lack of health insurance and: lower use of primary care services; decreased awareness of personal cardiovascular risk factors; poorer control of hypertension; and increased rates of stroke and death.
"We believe that our findings underscore the great importance of medical insurance in maintaining the health of the population," Fowler-Brown said. "As medical science continues to advance, we fear that the health disparities between those who have access to medical care through insurance and those who do not may continue to grow."
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke risk factors and prevention.