Indigenous people in seven countries, including the United States and Canada, appear to be more likely to suffer a stroke than non-natives, a new, large review finds.

“Disparities are especially evident in countries where high average quality of life and long life expectancies are often not mirrored in Indigneous populations,” said study author Anna Balabanski of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. 

“These disparities may reflect inequitable access to resources to prevent and manage stroke,” she added in a university news release.

Besides the United States and Canada, the 24  studies reviewed were done in Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore and Sweden — countries with high standards of living, health and knowledge. 

The review found stroke risk was higher in six countries for indigenous people than for non-natives.

In New Zealand, native Māoris were more likely to have a stroke than non-natives, the study found, but researchers noted the finding was from a single study done in 2002 and 2003.

In the United States, American Indians were 20% more likely to have a stroke than non-natives; and in Canada, Métis people were 40% more likely to have a stroke.

In Australia and Singapore, the risks for indigenous peoples were even more stark. 

Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders were up to 70% more likely to have a stroke than non-native people. And Malay people in Singapore were up to 90% more likely to do so than their non-native counterparts, the study found.

Gaps were smaller in Scandanavia. Sámi people in Norway and Sweden were 8% more apt to have a stroke than their non-indigenous counterparts.

“This process really highlighted the need for more and better research on stroke in Indigenous peoples,” Balabanski said. “For example, there were no studies meeting our criteria from South America, the Middle East or Russia. In addition, future studies should be designed and conducted with oversight by Indigenous peoples to strengthen research effort and improve outcomes.”

The findings were published Feb. 14 in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

More information

MedlinePlus has more about stroke risk factors.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Feb. 14, 2024