Mexican-Americans fared worse than their white counterparts 90 days after strokes, performing particularly badly on functional tests that predict survivors’ ability to take care of themselves, according to new research released Thursday.

“What we found most notable was the difference in functional outcome,” said Lynda Lisabeth, Ph.D., M.P.H., the study’s lead author and interim chair and associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Mexican-Americans did worse on all the measures of daily living activities compared to non-Hispanic whites.”

The level of functional impairment among Mexican-Americans was substantial. This is important given increasing functional impairment is highly predictive of nursing home admission and the need for informal care, researchers said.

Functional tests measured walking, bathing, grooming, eating, dressing, moving and toileting. Additional tests measured survivors’ neurologic and cognitive function 90 days after stroke. 

Researchers also found that compared to whites:

  • Nearly one-third of Mexican-Americans had post-stroke dementia;
  • Mexican-Americans had more language dysfunction and 48 percent had worse neurologic scores;
  • Mexican-Americans had worse cognitive outcomes.

Study participants were from a larger research project in a non-immigrant south Texas community, with 64 percent Mexican-Americans. Researchers assessed neurologic outcome for 513 people; functional outcome for 510 people; and 415 for cognition.

Mexican-American stroke survivors were younger with a median age of 65, compared to a median 72 years for non-Hispanic whites. Women represented about half of those in the study.

Despite being at higher risk of stroke, Mexican-Americans have a lower risk of death from stroke than non-Hispanic whites. However, the new research suggests that they may also be living with more disability.

“This study provides the first piece of information on the prognosis of Mexican-American stroke survivors,” Lisabeth said. “The clinical and public health information we discovered is important for future research in stroke prevention and rehabilitation in stroke survivors.”

“We don’t yet have a complete picture of recovery for Mexican-Americans and what potential intervention strategies can improve their recovery.”

The article was published in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke.