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S.F. researchers hope to improve stroke disparity in black population

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Black people are twice as likely as white people to be stroke victims, a problem two local research institutions are hoping to tackle with the help of an $11 million grant.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke awarded the grant to Kaiser Permanente Northern California and UC San Francisco this week to support a research program that aims to prevent strokes by targeting high blood pressure among black people and young adults.

“The goal is essentially to eliminate the stroke disparity between blacks and whites,” Kaiser research scientist Mai Nguyen-Huynh said.

The program will attempt to reduce strokes among the black population by identifying causes and who's at risk, working directly with patients and training new researchers.

Nguyen-Huynh said Kaiser plans to focus on two areas when working with black patients identified as potential stroke candidates: lifestyle and diet coaching, as well as medication compliance.

She said a primary cause of hypertension and high blood pressure among black people is high salt intake and sugary diets.

“We'll design coaching sessions tailored to the individual,” she said.

Nguyen-Huynh said doctors also will ensure patients receiving medication for high blood pressure understand what they're taking. She said patients often quit taking their medication when they experience side effects.

Strokes among all young adults also are becoming more common, and the program will explore the risk factors leading to this trend.

Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, director of UCSF's Center for Vulnerable Populations, said the program is going to have a direct impact on patients' lives.

“African-Americans in the Bay Area are affected by strokes and other complications with hypertension,” she said. “The goal isn't just to study this in an idealized way, but to really help people.”

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