Friday, October 12, 2012

Obesity raising risk of strokes in young adults

When someone uses the word ‘stroke’, what is the first thing that crosses your mind?
‘Older people’, right?
And you won’t be too far wrong. That is because for many years we have tended to believe that only elderly people are prone to strokes.
In fact, according to some statistics, 83 per cent of strokes occur in people who are aged 59 and above, with the most first strokes occurring in people in their 60’s and 70’s.
However, over the years rapid changes in lifestyles have meant that younger people have now also become more susceptible to strokes.
The risk factors in these cases include obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Two studies in the US, reported in the journal Neurology, have found that the rate of strokes in younger adults, aged between 20 and 54, increased between 1999 and 2005.
The studies were conducted in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region and stroke data were studied between July 1, 1993 and June 30, 1994 and in 1999 and 2005.
Researchers found that the mean age at stroke significantly decreased from 71.2 years in 1993-1994 to 69.2 years in 2005 and the proportion of all strokes under age 55 increased from 12.9 per cent in 1993-1994 to 18.6 per cent in 2005.
In the 20-54 years age group, incident stroke increased from 26 per 100,000 in 1993-1994 to 48 in 2005 among white patients, and 83 in 1993-1994 to 128 in 2005 among African-American patients.
Firstly, is it possible that younger adults have been prone to strokes all along, only that with the advances in technology it has been more easier for doctors to detect strokes in young people more often?
“I really don’t think that's the major reason,” said lead researcher Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
“We’re definitely seeing a higher incidence of risk factors for stroke now.”
Secondly, can studies conducted in just two states apply to the entire United States?
An editorial accompanying the findings thinks so.
“The estimates in the (current study) are comparable to contemporary estimates from other countries and other parts of the United States,” it said.
A few weeks ago, a report, titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, said that the number of obese adults will increase dramatically in every state in the United States over the next two decades – and along with it related disease rates and health care costs.
The report suggested that the doomsday scenario could be avoided 
if only the states could reduce the average Body Mass Index of their residents by just 5 per cent by 2030.
“The study shows us two futures for America’s health,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which had commissioned the study.
“At every level, we must pursue policies that prevent health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs.
“Nothing less is acceptable.”
Trust for America’s health executive director Jeff Levi said increasing physical activity times in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier.
“Small changes can add up to a big difference,” he says.
“Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”
Those suffering from hypertension and atherosclerosis are the most likely candidates for a stroke, though smoking and high cholesterol levels are also significant contributing factors.
Add obesity to the equation and you are looking at a disaster in the making.

However, the important point here is that the findings of the stroke study suggest increased efforts towards stroke awareness and education to reduce stroke incidence in young adults, particularly in minority communities.
The need for a healthy lifestyle also cannot be emphasized enough here because while a person who suffers from a small stroke may recover with minor disabilities, a major stroke can cause permanent disability or even death. 
sportEX journals / Free Photos

Photo credit: sportEX journals / Foter / CC BY-ND

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