Is There a Stroke Belt in China and Why?
Background and Purpose—In 1960s, a stroke belt with high stroke mortality was discovered in the southeast United States. In China, where stroke is the leading cause of death, we aimed to determine whether a focal region of high stroke incidence (stroke belt) exits and, if so, the possible causal and modifiable factors.
Methods—We systematically reviewed all studies of stroke incidence in China between 1980 and 2010, and included those which met our criteria for a high-quality study. Criteria for a provincial region of high stroke incidence were ranking in the top one third of all provinces for stroke incidence and ranking of more than one third of prefectural regions within the province in the top two sevenths of all prefectural regions for stroke incidence. We also reviewed regional distribution of major vascular risk factors, socioeconomic status, and demographic profiles in China.
Results—Nine eligible studies provided data on the incidence of stroke in 32 of 34 provincial regions of China (with Hong Kong and Macao as exceptions) and 52% of the 347 prefectural regions. Nine provincial regions (Heilongjiang, Tibet, Jilin, Liaoning, Xinjiang, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Beijing, and Ningxia) met our criteria for a region of high stroke incidence and constitute a stroke belt in north and west China. The incidence of stroke in the stroke belt was 236.2 per 100 000 population compared with 109.7 in regions outside the belt (rate ratio, 2.16; 95% confidence interval, 2.10–2.22). The mean population prevalence of hypertension and overweight (body mass index, >25) was greater in the stroke belt than that in other regions (15.3% versus 10.3%, P<0.001; 21.1% versus 12.3%, P=0.013, respectively). The prevalence of hypertension and overweight also correlated significantly with regional stroke incidence (R=0.642, P<0.001; R=0.438, P=0.014, respectively, by Spearman rank correlation).
Conclusions—A stroke belt of high stroke incidence exists in 9 provincial regions of north and west China. The stroke belt may be caused, at least in part, by a higher population prevalence of hypertension and excess body weight. Lowering blood pressure and body weight in the stroke belt may reduce the geographic disparity in stroke risk and incidence in China.
- Received February 20, 2013.
- Revision received April 2, 2013.
- Accepted April 4, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.