Posted on 15/10/2012

Could fast food be putting young people at risk of stroke?

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According to a report by the Daily Express, young people who binge on fast food are “at risk of developing a stroke”. The news, which is based on a large study carried out in America, examined the trends in stroke over the course of ten years. It found that while the overall rate of stroke decreased over time, the number of stroke patients under 55 increased significantly, suggesting that strokes, which were previously thought to be a condition concerning the elderly, are now a middle-aged health problem too.

The research highlighted a rise in risk factors which related to bad diets including high blood pressure and cholesterol. Although it is easy to speculate what is causing this pattern to emerge, the claim that fast food has directly influenced this trend cannot be supported by data presented in the study.

With the study carried out in America, the results may not necessarily follow the same pattern in the UK as rates of obesity are much higher in the States than in Great Britain, however data collected by the NHS has shown similarities. From 1998 to 1999, the number of people under 55 admitted to hospital because of a stroke was 9,321 – during 2010 to 2011, this number rose to 16,415 – almost doubling.

The research also highlighted a difference in stroke rates between black and white populations. Whether the reasons are socioeconomic or genetic is not yet known but is certainly worthy of further investigation.

Given what we know about risk factors for stroke and modern lifestyles, it is reasonable to assume that poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity do place middle-aged people at risk of stroke. Health authorities continue to advise the public to eat healthily, exercise regularly and quit smoking – factors that could help to prevent a plethora of illnesses and diseases over time.

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