What if you had the power to change your future? To know that there's the possibility that something bad will happen to you, but that you have the power to prevent it?
When it comes to health, in some ways, you can. One of those ways — one of the most important — is preventing stroke.
Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States. It can also lead to severe disability, and only 1 in 10 people who have a stroke recover completely.
But I’m relatively young and relatively healthy, you might say. And that’s great. But that doesn’t mean the way you treat your body now won’t affect you as you age.
What you do now affects your stroke risk
Thinking about stroke may seem premature or even ridiculous to many younger adults. It’s only something that affects your parents or grandparents, after all.
But in reality, your body is actually keeping score of all those fast food runs and binge-watching nights on the couch, and they could come back to haunt you later in life.
“Stroke risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, unhealthy diet and little physical activity start earlier than we ever realized, sometimes even in childhood. If people can make sustained, healthy choices throughout life, they can have a significant impact on their risk of stroke, even though strokes won’t happen for many decades,” says Gregory Roth, M.D., a cardiologist at the UW Medicine Heart Institute and a researcher at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
Roth and his colleagues recently conducted a study that examined lifetime stroke risk in adults worldwide. They found that in some parts of the world, including the United States, 1 in 4 adults over age 25 will experience a stroke sometime in their life.
Lifetime risk is different from immediate risk; it doesn’t mean a bunch of 25-year-olds are going to have strokes. What it does show, however, is that stroke is a huge problem.
The study also discovered that stroke risk varies depending on locale. People in many African countries, for example, were at much less risk than people from many Eastern European countries.
Combining these two findings — lifetime risk and risk dependent on location — is important, Roth says, in understanding that your likelihood for having a stroke is actually something you have some control over.
Many 20- or 30-somethings may have acquired habits that could contribute to stroke risk down the road, things like drinking a lot, choosing quick meals over nutritious ones, getting little exercise and smoking.