Teenagers have higher stroke risk in stroke belt states

What does being a teenager in the southeastern United States have to do with stroke risk? A new study found those who live in the so-called stroke belt as teenagers are 17 percent more likely to have a stroke later in life than people who grew up outside the region, even if they live elsewhere as adults.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says risk factors for stroke include:

  • high blood pressure,
  • high cholesterol,
  • diabetes and
  • being overweight or obese.

After adjusting for these stroke risk factors, the study found that living in the stroke belt during teenage years puts people at an even greater risk of stroke.

Why? Study author Virginia J. Howard, Ph.D., with the School of Public Health, University of Alabama at Birmingham said, “Many social and behavioral risk factors, such as smoking, are set in place during the teenage years, and teens are more exposed to external influences and gain the knowledge to challenge or reaffirm their childhood habits and lifestyle.”

These young people are likely to hang on to those habits, which solidify into unhealthy adult behaviors. Howard adds, “This study suggests that strategies to prevent stroke need to start early in life.”

For more information about stroke risk and stroke prevention or visit NortonHealthcare.com/Stroke.

–Jackie Hays 

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