Strokes kill more people than ever before

A couch potato lifestyle and diets filled with fast food burgers, fries, pizza, bacon and alcoholic beverages are leading to an increasing number of fatal strokes among Americans. Particularly alarming: Our dietary preferences for processed foods have resulted in kids and young adults having more strokes. But you and your family members can lower your risk with some simple lifestyle choices.

A Grim Reality

The 2012 American Stroke Association (ASA) conference painted a grim picture of how strokes are devastating Americans. This unfortunate situation correlates with our rising obesity epidemic among a sedentary population.

The ASA’s large, nationwide study of stroke hospitalizations analyzed Federal data from hospitals in more than 40 States by gender and age. This amounted to data covering 8 million stroke cases per year and compared the stroke rate of 1994-95 with 2006-07.

Despite improved education, access and technology, the stroke situation is discouraging. In fact, this analysis shows that stroke prevalence is dramatically rising.

Strokes Per Every 10,000 Hospitalizations

Gender

AgeRange

1994–95

2006–07

Change

Male

15–34

9.8

14.8

51 percent rise

Female

15–34

3.6

4.2

17 percent rise

Male

35–44

36

52.9

47 percent rise

Female

35–44

21.9

30

36 percent rise

These frightening statistics show an alarming increase of stroke particularly among men. However, if you want to avoid being one of these stroke victims, you can make the appropriate lifestyle choices.

Stroke Results

In both kinds of stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic, the brain experiences cell damage resulting from lack of oxygen and nutrients that are normally delivered in the blood.

Ischemic strokes result from the buildup of arterial plaque, which is linked to the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. When plaque is deposited along the arterial walls, the blood vessels stiffen and lose flexibility. When the supply of blood and nutrients to brain cells are cut off, a stroke occurs.

Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by ruptured blood vessels inside the brain that deprive cells of ample glucose and oxygen. These strokes can occur because of hypertension (high blood pressure), aneurysms (weak spots in blood vessel) and trauma (head injuries).

You’re At Risk

Genetics play a role in susceptibility to stroke. In general, people of African, Hispanic and Native American descent are at higher risk than Caucasians. African-Americans, in particular, are often at risk due to sickle cell anemia.

Pre-existing medical conditions that put you at additional risk include elevated blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, diseased arteries, obesity and diabetes.

By far, your lifestyle habits are the biggest contributor to your risk of stroke. Smoking and overconsumption of salt, sugar, fat, simple carbohydrates and alcohol make you more liable to experience a stroke.

If you don’t exercise regularly and undergo continual stress, you also have a bigger chance of having a stroke. But by simply having a consistent program of physical activity, implementing stress reduction techniques (meditation and exercise can lower stress levels) and eating more fruits and vegetables, you can fight your stroke risk.

Stroke Picture

Describing the stroke situation, Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the American Heart Association, warns: “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.” Indeed, this is happening.

Parents who feed their children diets packed with salt, preservatives, fat and high-fructose corn syrup and low in whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables are leading them down a path of increased stroke risk. Advertisers who tell us their products like sugary breakfast cereals, processed nutrition bars and diet sodas are safe and effective are also at fault. In fact, research shows that people who drink diet soft drinks daily are 49 percent more likely to have a stroke or heart disease than those who abstain from soda altogether.

Of course, rather than focusing on blame, you should focus on reducing your risk. Eat healthfully, exercise and practice stress relief. And teach your children the same healthy lifestyle habits.

Make the choice. It may save your life or the lives of those you love.

Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.