The Stroke Belt


By: Nikki Nies

A culmination of factors raise concern for those located in the “Stroke Belt” region. The southeast region is composed of the the Stroke Belt, which refers to higher risk of heart disease and/or hypertension.  The term Stroke Belt started in the late 1950’s by epidemiologists compiled data showing a higher-than-average death rate from strokes.

The stereotypical consumption of fatty, fried foods is not the only culprit, but genetic, socioeconomic, cultural associations, lack of access to healthy food, and lack of physical activity contribute to the higher percentage of the overweight. It’s a shame MI and TN are limited in side walks since the thought of walking around the block isn’t easily supported. It’s no coincidence southern states are also tobacco producing states as well as smoking is more common in the south.With increased weight and higher blood pressure, significantly increases one’s risk of stroke.  The elderly, Native stroke-signsAmericans, African Americans and those with lower education levels are found to be more likely to be overweight.

It should not be overlooked there are some changes that have been put into place.  As of 2007, Mississippi created nutrition standards for schools lunches, Tennessee encourages schools to buy fresh ingredients from locally grown areas and Arkansas has a school BMI program, where screening results can be sent home to inform parents.  The impact of these implemented programs will take time, but I’m glad to see such changes have been gradually introduced.

As the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S., living in the Stroke Belt, which consists of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee increases one’s risk of stroke.  It’s critical to know the warning signs of stroke, such as: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eye; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination and/or sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Although not all factors that contribute to being overweight, like genetics or ethnicity, but lifestyle changes can make a difference.  By lowering one’s blood pressure, cholesterol and weight and avoiding use of cigarettes, can help the situation and decrease chances of stroke.


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