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Strokes Among Youth

Here in the United States, heart disease is the number one killer. Usually, we think of this as a problem among older adults. And this is true to a certain extent. Generally, the risk continually increases after the age of 45. Hormones naturally protect women until they face menopause; then, the risk increases.

New Research

New research shows that heart disease is gradually increasing and affecting teenagers and young adults. Researchers reviewed data taken from hospitals during 1995-2008. While the number of strokes for the older population has decreased, the number of acute ischemic strokes (brain blood supply decreases or stops) rose among youth except for girls aged 5-14. The most significant number of these strokes occurred with males aged 5-14, a 51.6 percent increase. Males aged 15 to 34 experienced a 45.6 percent increase.1 Those who experienced a stroke had an additional risk factor. Almost one-third of the 15-34 year group had high blood pressure.2

With these changes in health, young adults, teens, and parents of children should re-examine their lifestyles and make changes to support good health to prevent strokes. What can be done to protect the heart and blood vessels?

• Add fruits and vegetables to the diet. These foods offer natural ingredients that protect the heart and blood vessels and help maintain healthy lifestyles.

• Increase fiber intake. Fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole-grain foods such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, and oatmeal provide a generous fiber supply. It is recommended that teens and adults should get 25-36 grams of fiber a day. The Institute of Medicine recommends that for every 1,000 calories consumed, both children and adults should get 14 grams.

• Regular physical activity is recommended. Adults should get a minimum of 30 minutes a day, and children should get a minimum of 60 minutes a day. Walking, swimming, and biking are great activities to get moving.

• Choose fats and oils that are low in saturated fats and high in monounsaturated fats. Omega-3 fatty acids are also helpful in maintaining good health. Foods such as flax seed and salmon help us maintain a steady supply.

• Eat less refined products and avoid smoking and tobacco smoke.

Make it a goal to keep everyone in the family heart healthy!

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Pamela Williams writes from Southern California.

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About Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

Pamela A. Williams, MPH, RD

is a dietitian, photographer, and writer in Southern California.

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