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New immigrants are at a lower risk of suffering from a stroke than long-term residents of Canada, according to a study by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.

"We were surprised by our findings," said the lead researcher, Gustavo Saposnik, a St. Mike's neurologist. He noted that immigrants face many stresses that, in theory, should put added pressures on their health and boost their odds of having a stroke.

For the study, the researchers identified all new immigrants to Ontario over a 12-year period and compared them with people of the same age and gender who were existing residents of the province. The health of the new arrivals was charted for six years. In that time, the recent immigrants had a 30 per cent lower risk of stroke than long-term residents, according to the findings published in the journal Neurology.

So why the lower stroke risk among new immigrants? Dr. Saposnik now believes that people who are able to make it through the immigration process tend to be in generally good health, which helps them cope with the added pressures of adjusting to a new homeland.

"New immigrants definitely don't appear to be a burden in terms of health care – at least for the first six years," he said.

Of course, he added, there is always the possibility that the health of immigrants could slip over time if they adopt a lot of unhealthy North American habits – such as overeating and insufficient exercise.