People over 55 years old risk of stroke has decreased in the past years while young people is more likely to suffer one, says a study from the American Heart Association. It is not known why younger generations are more vulnerable to strokes, but it is believed that increased obesity and diabetes rates might have something to do with it.

The new research available in Journal of the American Heart Association describes that strokes continue to decline in people 55 and older compared with people between 35 and 39 years old, whose strokes rates are getting higher. The study used data from almost all hospitalizations for heart disease and strokes in New Jersey. The research outstands because it did not use other databases which only provide a sample of patients or require voluntary participation from hospitals.

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The data showed that between 1995-1999 and 2010-2014 the rates of strokes more than doubled in people between 35 to 39 years old. The number of individuals between 40 to 44 suffering from this disease also doubled, and those aged 45 to 54 also pointed out an increase of cases involving the heart disease. Older people experienced a decrease in stroke rates and, in general, compared to heart attacks, the number of stroke cases was significantly higher. Heart attack rates were lower in all groups.

The research discovered that people born between 1945 and 1954 had lower stroke rates than those born before and after that period. Doctors failed to specify why the “golden generation” is now less likely to have a stroke than younger generations because the authors did not have access to many details. The consulted database did not have information of individual’s risk factors such as smoking, cholesterol levels or medication use.

According to the study, the possible cause is that modern generations diseases like diabetes have been going up for years. Another reason that could explain why people between 35 and 39 years old are more likely to have a stroke nowadays is that smoking has been increasing in those generations. Also, different studies have discovered that younger people failed to take blood pressure or lipid-lowering medication as prescribed.

“People, especially those under 50, need to realize that stroke does not just occur in the old, and the outcome can be much more debilitating than a heart attack – leaving you living for another 30 to 50 years with a physical disability,” said Joel N. Swerdel, M.S., M.P.H., lead study author and a Ph.D. candidate at the Rutgers University School of Public Health in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Older generations did not have access to high levels of sugar in their meals as younger people do

Obesity was less common before the 1950s than it is today, and that could be due to a wide exposure to the sugar market. People nowadays have cereal for breakfast while in the 1940s the first meal of the day included eggs and oatmeal, explains Swerdel. Sugar quantities consumed by the younger generation is just a theory to try to explain the sudden increase in stroke cases in people in their 30s.

Swerdel stressed that the focus should be to create awareness on the issue. Encouraging the younger generation to do something about it is vital to reduce stroke case in all generations. People need to take their medication as indicated by the physician and consider lifestyle changes, including a healthier diet and some exercise.

Source: American Heart Association