Strength of Risk Factors for Stroke Vary by Age

As people age, high blood pressure and diabetes may pose less of a stroke risk.

HealthDay News — High blood pressure and diabetes may pose less of a stroke risk as people age, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in Neurology.

George Howard, Dr.P.H., from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, and colleagues assessed whether risk for stroke from common risk factors changes as people age. The analysis included 28,235 participants enrolled in the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke study (2003 to 2007) and followed for a median 11.3 years.

The researchers found that the magnitude of the association with stroke was significantly less at older ages for diabetes (hazard or relative risk decreasing from ≈2.0 in younger strata to ≈1.3 in older strata), heart disease (from ≈2.0 to ≈1.3), and hypertension (threshold of 140/90 mm Hg; from ≈1.80 to ≈1.50). For smoking, atrial fibrillation or left ventricular hypertrophy, there was no age-related difference in the magnitude of association.

“High blood pressure and diabetes are two important risk factors for stroke that can be managed by medication, decreasing a person’s risk. Our findings show that their association with stroke risk may be substantially less at older ages, yet other risk factors do not change with age,” Howard said in a statement. “It is important to note that our results do not suggest that treatment of high blood pressure and diabetes becomes unimportant in older age. Such treatments are still very important for a person’s health. But it also may be wise for doctors to focus on managing risk factors such as atrial fibrillation, smoking, and left ventricular hypertrophy as people age.”

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