Study Reveals Why Black People Are Dying At Higher Rates From COVID-19

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Black people are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than our white American counterparts, now researchers are pointing to one medical condition that may explain why. 

According to researchers from the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine, Black COVID-19 patients were more likely than other groups to have experienced a stroke prior to contracting the coronavirus, possibly pointing to strokes as one of the reasons our community has seen higher death rates since the start of the pandemic. 

“Historically, stroke rates have been consistently higher among the Black population,” Dr. Paddy Ssentogo, assistant researcher at the school’s Center for Neural Engineering told Penn Live. “However, we did not expect this very high racial disparity in stroke prevalence among patients with COVID-19.” 

Of the nearly 800,000 Americans who have strokes every year, Black people and other marginalized racial groups are among the highest.

A Closer Look at the Data

The study, published this month in the Journal of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease, was conducted nationwide and analyzed data from more than 8,000 adults who tested positive for COVID-19 and entered hospital emergency rooms across 35 states between December 2019 to August 2020. Majority of those patients, the study found, were Black or Hispanic. 

Less than 1 percent of the COVID-19 patients in the study had experienced a stroke, which can be described as a medical event in which blood flow, and therefore oxygen, is restricted to the brain. Out of that group, half were Black, 29% were non-Hispanic white, and 21% were Hispanic. 

Researchers controlled other factors including age, sex, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, smoking and drinking habits before determining that Black people have a three times greater chance of having experienced a stroke prior to contracting COVID-19 than non-Black patients.

The Bottom Line

“Stroke is a risk factor for COVID-19 mortality,” Ssentogo said. “Our findings highlight the burden of stroke in Black patients with COVID-19 and could explain the disproportionately high rates of COVID-19 mortality within this population.” 

The study also found that states in the South have higher incidences of stroke among their populations. In recent weeks, Southern states have witnessed spikes in new COVID-19 cases as vaccination rates lag behind most of the nation. 

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