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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Risk Of Stroke Lower For Recent Ontario Immigrants

February 4, 2010

30 percent lower risk of premature acute stroke for new arrivals

Recent immigrants to Ontario have a 30 per cent lower risk of stroke than long term residents, according to preliminary study results from researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

“What we learned could translate into long-term health benefits for the whole population,” says Dr. Gustavo Saposnik, a neurologist at St. Michael’s Hospital. “We need to do further research but the study points to the need for policies that aim to preserve the healthier state of new immigrants while continuing to focus on lowering stroke risk among all adults.”

Published today in Neurology®, the American Academy of Neurology medical journal, the study identified all new immigrants to Ontario over a 12 year period and matched them to people of the same age and gender who had lived in the province for at least five years. The participants ranged in age 16 to 65 with an average age of 34.

“New immigrants face many stresses ““ new jobs, new diets and building new relationships ““ our study wanted to examine how these factors affected their risk of stroke,” says Saposnik, “The findings verify the presence of a healthy immigrant effect in relation to stroke risk.”

The researchers, which included Dr. Joel Ray, Dr. D. Redelmeier, Dr. Hong Lu, Dr. E. Lonn and Dr. Esme Fuller-Thomson, followed the participants for six years. During that time, there were 933 strokes among the new immigrants and 5,283 strokes among long-term residents. New immigrants had a rate of 1.7 strokes per person per year compared to 2.6 strokes per person per year in long-term residents. The results were the same after adjusting for income, smoking and history of other diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

New immigrants also showed a lower rate of hypertension. The tendency for young immigrants to have lower rates of chronic disease suggests that healthier people tend to choose to immigrate and the medical examinations required screen out unhealthy applicants.

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