The study: More people are having strokes years before they hit retirement age, and it could be due to increased rates of obesity. A study released this week in the journal Neurology looked at stroke rates among African-Americans and whites aged 20 to 54 living in greater Cincinnati and northern Kentucky during the years 1993 to 1994, 1999 and 2005.
From 1993-1994 to 2005, the average age of people who had a stroke went from age 71 to 69. The percentage of all strokes suffered by people under age 55 went from 12.9 percent in 1993-1994 to 18.6 percent in 2005. The increases were mostly seen in ischemic stroke, which occurs when there’s a blockage in a blood vessel that restricts the blood supply to the brain.
High levels of obesity in younger people may be a factor in the numbers, lead author Dr. Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, said in a news release. “Other factors, such as improved diagnosis through the increased use of MRI imaging, may also be contributing,” he added. “Regardless, the rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability."
What we already know: National health statistics suggest that risk factors for stroke have gone up in recent years, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. We know those contribute to coronary heart disease, and this information shows that they could also lead to a higher risk of stroke.
What this means for you: The good news in all of this is that stroke risk factors are things that can be changed through diet and exercise. Even making small alterations in food and activity can go a long way in lowering cholesterol levels and blood pressure. But wait—Kissela has more: “Given the increase in stroke among those younger than 55,” he added, “younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease.”
What are your best tips for improving heart health? Let us know in the comments.