March 20 (UPI) -- The rate of older black and white people who receive Medicare benefits and die shortly after an initial stroke has fallen over the last 25 years, a new study says.
The decline was sharpest for deaths within 30 days after an initial ischemic stroke among black Medicare beneficiaries, decreasing from 16 to 8 percent among men and 14 to 9 percent among women, according to a study published in the April issue of Medical Care. White Medicare beneficiaries also saw a dip in stroke death numbers, from 16 to 12 percent among white men and 16 to 15 percent among white women.
"Despite these promising trends, our study also found that black men and women continue to be at higher risk for stroke than white patients," Margaret C. Fang, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, and study author, said in a news release.
Based on Medicare data between 1988 and 2013, the researchers looked at more than 1 million hospitalizations after an initial ischemic stroke due to blockage or narrowing of the brain blood vessels. They also examined almost 150,000 hospitalizations after bleeding into or around the brain caused hemorrhagic strokes.
"Our study of evolving US trends in stroke found that both black and white Medicare enrollees experienced considerable improvements over time with regard to stroke hospitalizations," Fang and coauthors wrote.
They found that stroke risk reduced from 1,185 to 551 per 100,000 among black male Medicare beneficiaries and from 932 to 407 per 100,000 among white male beneficiaries. That's compared to a lowered risk of 1,222 to 641 per 100,000 for black female beneficiaries and 892 to 466 per 100,000 for white female beneficiaries.
Strokes kill roughly 140,000 each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study's findings suggest a reduction in risk factors such as smoking, blood pressure and cholesterol levels among both black and white Medicare beneficiaries led to better health outcomes.
"Our findings provide hopeful news about how stroke is being prevented and managed in the United States," Fang said.