Virginia Howard, Ph.D.

People who spent all of their childhood and early adulthood in the Stroke Belt are more likely to develop cognitive impairment later in life compared to those who did not, according to a new study led by researchers at the School of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

The study, which was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, found that those who live in the Stroke Belt — which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee — when they are middle-aged and older, but lived somewhere else as a child or young adult, are not as likely to develop cognitive impairment.

“Compared to people who did not spend any of their young life in the Stroke Belt, people who spent all of their young life in the Stroke Belt, but currently live outside of it, had higher risk of cognitive impairment in older life,” said Virginia Howard, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a professor of epidemiology at the UAB School of Public Health. “For people who currently live in the Stroke Belt, compared to people who spent all of their young life in the Stroke Belt, their risk of having cognitive impairment later in life is less if they spent some or all of their early adulthood outside of the Stroke Belt.”

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