Study finds worse post-stroke neurologic outcomes in Spanish-speaking Americans


New research has indicated that Mexican Americans have worse outcomes after a stroke than non-Hispanic white Americans.

A recent study, which looked at whether the language Mexican American people speak is linked to how well they recover after a stroke, has been published in an online issue of Neurology—the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN).

“Our study found that Mexican American people who spoke only Spanish had worse neurologic outcomes three months after having a stroke than Mexican American people who spoke only English or were bilingual,” said study author and AAN fellow Lewis B Morgenstern (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA). “More research is needed into what factors and barriers may influence these worse outcomes.”

The study involved 1,096 Mexican American people in Corpus Christi, Texas in the USA who had a stroke over a 10-year period.

Researchers looked at results three months after the stroke in three areas: neurologic, functional, and thinking and memory skills. Neurologic results cover areas like muscle strength and coordination, and problems with speech or vision, while functional results include how well people can complete their daily activities, such as showering and preparing meals.

The 170 people who spoke Spanish only were compared to the 926 people who spoke English only or were bilingual. Those who spoke Spanish only were older, had received less education and had worse neurologic scores at the time of the stroke than those in the other group.

Three months after their stroke, the Spanish-only speakers had average neurologic scores of seven, where scores of five to 14 indicate moderate effects from a stroke. The English-only and bilingual speakers had average scores of four, where scores of one to four indicate mild effects. The results remained after researchers adjusted for the differences between the two groups and other factors that could affect stroke risk, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The study found no difference between the two groups in how well they recovered their ability to complete their daily activities, or in their thinking and memory skills.

“We conducted an earlier study in this same community finding that the language people spoke was not associated with any delay in their getting to the hospital or using emergency medical services after an ischaemic stroke, so we definitely need more information to determine what is driving the differences in outcomes between these two groups,” Morgenstern added.

A limitation of the study acknowledged by the researchers is that there was a low number of Spanish-only speakers. Also, the majority of Mexican Americans in Corpus Christi are born in the USA, so these results may not be applicable to areas with a larger population of people born outside the country, the researchers note.


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