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Press Release

Embargoed until 12:15 pm, Central Time

February 20, 2003
Contact: Mike Greenwell
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
& Health Promotion
(770) 488-5131

CDC Releases Atlas of Stroke Mortality

Major disparities seen in stroke death rates;
New data can help communities target resources

African-Americans are 1.4 times more likely to die of a stroke than whites, and more than twice as likely as Hispanics and Native Americans to die of stroke, according to a new report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Atlas of Stroke Mortality provides an extensive series of national and state maps depicting disparities in county-level stroke death rates for the five largest racial and ethnic groups in the United States – African-Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asians and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics and Caucasians. It presents data for adults ages 35 and older during the years 1991-1998, and shows geographic disparities in stroke deaths varied substantially among racial and ethnic groups.

"Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and these data highlight the disparities in stroke that exist in the United States," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. "Prevention is key. It is important for all Americans to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke, to have their blood pressure measured and controlled if necessary, and to have the opportunity to engage in other activities which could reduce their risk of stroke including quitting smoking, being physically active and eating plenty of fruits and vegetables."

African-Americans are also more likely to die of stroke at an earlier age than other racial and ethnic groups. Among African-Americans, almost half of stroke deaths occurred before age 75, compared to 45 percent for Asians and Pacific Islanders, and 25 percent of stroke deaths among whites.

“Disparities as large as those reported in the Atlas tell us that scientific knowledge about the prevention of stroke is not yet being applied widely enough to communities,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, CDC director. The Atlas provides health professionals and policy-makers an essential tool to target stroke prevention programs.”

The Atlas reports that the overall stroke death rate for adults ages 35 and older was 121 per 100,000 from 1991 to 1998. Stroke death rates for states ranged from a high of 169 per 100,000 in South Carolina to a low of 89 per 100,000 in New York State. On average, stroke death rates fell only 0.8 percent per year during 1991-1998.

The Atlas also highlights the differences in geographic patterns that exist among the racial and ethnic groups. For both blacks and whites the largest concentrations of counties with the highest stroke death rates were found in the Southeastern states and the Mississippi Delta region. Among Hispanics, the largest concentration of high-rate counties was observed in much of Texas and New Mexico. The highest rate of stroke deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives was found in parts of Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. For Asians and Pacific Islanders the highest rates were found among counties in California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest.

“This landmark document supports the elimination of health disparities, one of the two goals of the national health agenda, Healthy People 2010,” said Dr. George A. Mensah, head of the cardiovascular program at CDC. “With this information, public health professionals will be able to tailor prevention policies and programs to the needs of communities with the greatest burden of deaths from stroke.”

The Atlas of Stroke Mortality is the third in a series of CDC atlases on cardiovascular diseases published in collaboration with West Virginia University and the University of South Florida. Together with Women and Heart Disease: An Atlas of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mortality (February 2000) and Men and Heart Disease: An Atlas of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mortality (June 2001). The publications inform concerned citizens, policy makers, and researchers at the local, state and national levels about the disparities in stroke and heart disease mortality.

For a free copy of the Atlas of Stroke Mortality, write to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Stroke Atlas Project, Division of Adult and Community Health, 4770 Buford Highway, NE, MS K-47, Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717; email; or call 1-888-232-2306 (toll free inside the United States). To view interactive maps of stroke mortality or download sections of the Atlas, visit

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This page last updated February 20, 2003

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