Strokes in young people used to be caused by unusual medical conditions or thyroid problems. The numbers were usually quite low, and most people under 44 felt they had nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The number one cause for this new crisis appears to be obesity. It is an epidemic in the U.S., and the number of other countries developing the problem is expanding as fast as our girth. Here are the problems we’re facing and how to get around them:
Childhood Obesity: Fat children usually become fat adults. We set our eating patterns when we are young, and it is very difficult to change them when we get older. While it is rare for a child to have a stroke, once they hit their teenage years they become more at risk. The main factor given? Childhood obesity.
Diet: Take a good look at what you and your children are eating. Is it safe? Is it healthy? Granting it’s difficult to come home after a full day’s work and prepare a healthy dinner, it is very much in your entire family’s best interest if that happens. One thing you can try is to make extra when you have the time. Label it (including date) and freeze it for those days you’re too tired to cook.
Drug Abuse: Some drugs, and the withdrawal from them, can cause strokes. Cocaine is a prime example, but it isn’t the only one. If you believe your child is on drugs, have your pediatrician intervene.
High Blood Pressure: Children and teenagers are more and more frequently diagnosed with high blood pressure. While something needs to be done, at the moment the best we can do is lifestyle change and blood pressure medications. There are no studies that tell us whether or not they are safe, but the high readings are definitely a threat.
High Cholesterol: Like blood pressure medications, there are no studies showing that they are harmful. Children as young as eight years old have been placed on cholesterol reducing medications. One study that has come out indicates that starting statins early may prevent heart attacks and strokes when the child reaches adulthood.
Sitting: Seems silly, right? Not really. We all, at every age, seem to sit a lot more than we used to. Moving from desk to car to computer to couch is about all the exercise any of us get anymore.
This is bad on two fronts. Exercise is a key ingredient to getting to and retaining a healthy weight. We can’t do it on diet alone, especially if our diet is horrible.
Second, it has been proven on airlines that sitting for long periods of time can cause blood clots in the legs. Guess what happens if that clot should hit your brain? You have a stroke. You’re also in danger of a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.
Sodium: There is a direct correlation between sodium and strokes. One reason is that it raises your blood pressure. If it’s already an issue, overconsumption is like asking for a nasty result.
There are things you can do. Teach your children about the needs for exercise and a proper diet. Show them by example that it is a lifelong commitment. Have them help you with the shopping and preparation of food so they can learn how to eat well and healthy at the same time.
If you are having problems with these issues, your doctor and your child’s pediatrician would love to help you. They can also refer you to a nutritionist to help develop a good diet plan. Doing so may save your child’s life.