Stroke risk from high blood pressure and diabetes may decrease with age

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High blood pressure and diabetes are two well-known factors that can increase a person’s risk of having a stroke.

However, a new study suggests that the level of risk these conditions pose might actually decrease as people get older.

This study, led by George Howard from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, aimed to discover how age affects stroke risk related to high blood pressure and diabetes.

How the Study Worked

The study followed 28,235 people over an average of 11 years. These participants had never experienced a stroke before. The group was diverse, with 41% identifying as Black and 59% as white.

Everyone went through interviews and physical exams at the start to check for stroke risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and heart-related issues.

Researchers also took into account that Black people have a higher risk of stroke, so they included race as a risk factor in their study.

Every six months, the researchers checked in with participants and looked through their medical records to identify any strokes.

The study categorized participants into three age groups: 45-69, late 60s to 70s, and 74 and older. They then compared these groups to see how stroke risk factors varied with age.

What the Researchers Found

Here are the key findings:

Younger people (ages 45-69) with diabetes were about twice as likely to have a stroke compared to those without diabetes of the same age. But for older people (74 and older), the risk was only 30% higher compared to those without diabetes.

Similarly, younger people with high blood pressure were 80% more likely to have a stroke than those of similar age without it. This risk dropped to 50% in the older age group.

The study also looked at race and found that Black participants in the younger age group had a higher risk of stroke compared to white participants. This racial gap lessened in the older age group.

Why This Matters

Even though the study suggests the impact of high blood pressure and diabetes on stroke risk may lessen with age, it’s essential to understand that these conditions still require proper management.

George Howard emphasized that while treating high blood pressure and diabetes remains crucial, doctors should also pay attention to other factors like smoking and heart-related issues, especially in older patients.

The study also found that although the relative risk from these factors may decrease with age, the overall number of people experiencing strokes increases as they get older.

For example, about 3.6% of younger people with high blood pressure had a stroke, compared to 9.3% of older people with high blood pressure.

Limitations and Next Steps

The study had some limitations. For example, risk factors were only checked once at the start, so they might have changed over time.

Despite these limitations, the findings offer a fresh perspective on how stroke risk factors interact with age, providing valuable information that could guide future healthcare strategies.

If you care about stroke, please read studies about a breakfast linked to better blood vessel health, and olive oil could help lower risks of heart disease and stroke.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and how wild blueberries can benefit your heart and brain.

The research findings can be found in Neurology.

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