Study examines connection of language barriers with likeliness of stroke in humans

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A recent study has highlighted that Mexican Americans may experience less favorable outcomes after a stroke compared to non-Hispanic white Americans, potentially due to language barriers. The study, published in the medical journal Neurology, aimed to explore the relationship between language spoken by Mexican Americans and their recovery after a stroke.
The study, led by Dr. Lewis B. Morgenstern from the University of Michigan, involved 1,096 Mexican Americans who had experienced strokes in Corpus Christi, Texas, over a 10-year period. The participants’ outcomes were evaluated three months after their stroke, focusing on neurologic, functional, and cognitive abilities.
The findings revealed that Mexican American individuals who only spoke Spanish had worse neurologic outcomes compared to those who spoke English only or were bilingual. Neurologic outcomes included issues with speech, vision, coordination, and muscle strength. The study found that individuals who only spoke Spanish were older, had less education, and had worse neurologic scores at the time of the stroke.

Specifically, the average neurologic score for Spanish-only speakers three months after the stroke was 7, indicating moderate effects from the stroke. In contrast, the scores for English-only and bilingual speakers ranged from one to four, indicating milder effects. The differences in outcomes persisted even after accounting for other stroke risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
However, the study found no differences between the two groups in terms of recovery in daily functioning and cognitive abilities. This suggests that language barriers may predominantly impact neurologic outcomes rather than functional or cognitive recovery.
Dr. Morgenstern emphasized the need for further research to understand the factors and barriers that contribute to these disparities in stroke outcomes. The study’s limitations include a relatively small number of Spanish-only speakers and the potential for regional variations in outcomes among Mexican Americans.
The findings underscore the importance of addressing language barriers in healthcare settings to ensure equitable access to quality care and better outcomes for diverse populations, such as Mexican Americans, who may face unique challenges due to language differences.

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