Lifestyle is all important. Period. But sometimes we have to admit that we can’t change everything, especially if it happened back when you were a teen.
I personally believe that chronic diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke have “critical periods” in our lives that pre-program us for or protect us from these diseases. Think this sounds strange? Here are some examples:
- Teenage diet affects later colon cancer risk
- Childhood soy intake slashes breast cancer rates 60%
- Adolescent soy intake slashes breast cancer rates 59%
- Higher vitamin D as child cuts prostate cancer risk
- Early sun exposure cuts later breast cancer risk
I’m sure you’re getting the idea. It is clear that the choices we make as a teenager follow us the rest of our lives. Pretty scary, huh?
While there isn’t anything you can do to turn back the hands of time and eat more broccoli, if you have children this information is critical. No longer can you accept that your teen’s Wonder bread, ubiquitous artificial sweetener intake and Monster energy drinks are just a phase. These choices WILL affect them 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years in the future.
Now that I’ve set the tone, it’s time to get to this particular article. The Stroke Belt is a region of the southeastern United States (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) that has a higher risk of its residents suffering a stroke.
Basically, researchers looked at whether living in the Stroke Belt during certain age ranges led to a higher risk of stroke later in life. After teasing out other accepted risk factors for stroke (such as high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, etc..) the only time period that became important was the 13-18 year old range.
This group, if living in the Stroke Belt between the ages of 13 and 18, had a 17% higher overall lifetime risk of stroke. This is not chump change when it comes to an increased risk.
Of course, the question is whether lifestyles during the teenage years trip some kind of genetic switch (much like the studies noted above) or whether those living in the Stroke Belt during their teenage years pick up bad habits (smoking, sedentary lifestyles, down-home-Southern-cooking, etc…) that persist years later.
Either way, and regardless of whether you live or have lived in the Stroke Belt, you need to understand that your child’s current behaviors will likely affect his or her health for a lifetime. Help them choose wisely.