Obesity Possibly to Blame for Stroke Rise in Young
The obesity epidemic may be the cause of the sharp increase in stroke incidences in young Americans. Stroke, a disease which notoriously affects older adults, appears to now be becoming a disease of the young.
The data, released Wednesday at the American Stroke Association conference, was collected by analysts at the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was the first report to look at the long term incidence of stroke by age group in the U.S. The results of the study showed that between the years of 1994 and 2007 the number of strokes increased in all age groups under 44, including children. The highest increases were see in men between the ages of 15 and 34, which showed an 51 percent increase. Females of the same age group increased by 17 percent. Among boys and girls between 5 to 14 there was a 31 percent and 36 percent increase, respectively.
Older adults, who account for the majority of stroke incidences, actually showed a slight decrease.
Stroke, a temporary loss of blood supply to the brain, is a serious condition in which can cause permanent disability or death. Even though nearly 80 percent of strokes are believed to be preventable, it continues to be one of the top three causes of death in the United States. Lifestyle habits such as obesity, inactivity, smoking, poor diet, alcoholic use are all controllable factors which contribute to an increase in stroke risk.
Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the of the American Heart Association said, “It's definitely alarming. We have worried for a while that the increased prevalence of obesity in children and young adults may take its toll in cardiovascular disease and stroke."
Stroke and obesity are closely related due to the strain that excess weight puts on the cardiovascular system. Furthermore, people who are obese are more likely to be inactive, have a poor diet, high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes – all which are contributing factors to stroke risk.
It is estimated that nearly 1 in 10 adults are obese and this is expected to reach 2 in 5 adults by the year 2050. Obesity in children has also risen dramatically, the numbers nearly tripling over the last three decades.
“[Stroke] is currently considered something that mostly happens to older people, but awareness of rising rates in the young is important or else tPA and other important stroke treatment may be unnecessarily delayed in younger patients,” stated Xin Ton, M.P.H., a health statistician with the CDC.
The CDC was careful to point out, however, that this study did not directly link obesity or any other medical condition to this increase and that more research is needed to determine why stroke is in on the rise in America's young.
Current stroke prevention programs currently focus raising awareness of preventable factors and the signs and symptoms of stroke. This study indicates that perhaps these materials should be targeted towards a younger audience in conjunction with raising awareness about the dangers of obesity.