TUESDAY, Feb. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanic Americans who were born in another country are less likely to have a stroke than white Americans, a new study finds.

It included 1,424 Hispanics and 14,360 whites over age 50 (average age 66) who had no history of stroke when they were enrolled in 1998. They were followed until 2008.

During the follow-up period, 1,388 of the participants suffered a first stroke. After accounting for socioeconomic factors, the researchers concluded that foreign-born Hispanics -- those who immigrated to the United States after age 6 -- were 42 percent less likely than whites to have a first stroke.

There was no difference in risk between Hispanics born in the United States and whites.

The study appears in the journal Stroke and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) annual meeting, to be held in New Orleans from April 21-28.

"Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S. and more research is needed to understand why they might have lower stroke risk than non-Hispanic whites," study author J. Robin Moon, at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said in an AAN news release.

"This protective effect does not extend to Hispanics born in the U.S., who have stroke risk similar to non-Hispanic whites with similar education and financial resources," Moon added. "Future research should address what could explain this pattern. We are interested in differences in childhood conditions that might shape adult risk factors, for example diet, social or family connections, physical activity and health behaviors."

Learning more might help researchers find ways to reduce stroke risk for everyone, Moon said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about stroke risk and prevention.