March 15 (UPI) -- When it comes to cardiovascular risk, race and gender matter.
In fact, black women in their 50s have a 3.5-fold increased risk of stroke versus white women of the same age, according to findings published Thursday in Stroke.
"Women in their 50s and 60s are still contributing to the workforce and have substantial family responsibilities," Monik C. Jiménez, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a news release.
Jiménez added that this stroke risk is "impacting black women at a time in their lives when they're most productive at the peak of their lives."
"That tells us disparities may be working through those cardiovascular risk factors," Jiménez said.
Jiménez is calling on health professionals to get a better understanding of the role race plays in health outcomes for different patients.
"They need to understand the disparity between racial groups so they're not overlooking the potential for stroke risk among younger women of color," Jiménez said. "They need to make sure they're talking to their patients about stroke risk and individual things they can do" to lower risk.
Jimenez says the women in the study had poor health forecasts despite having relatively high incomes and education levels.
Some of the risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and smoking. In all, women make up nearly 60 percent of the stroke deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Although this effect (on black women in their 50s) decreased substantially after accounting for important risk factors, it could be there are disparities in risk factors themselves," said Mitchell S.V. Elkind, the chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee.
Elkind also wants doctors to keep an eye out for health disparities that exist in other groups, affect other groups, to deliver more effective treatment to all patients.
"It's important for us as a society to realize when one group has poor health outcomes, everyone suffers," Elkind said.