Obese women as teens or young adults have a higher stroke risk by age 55

In contrast, men did not have the same increased ischemic stroke risk.

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If a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it might result in an ischemic stroke. Approximately 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, which are the most common kind of Stroke.

According to research published today in Stroke, the peer-reviewed scientific journal of the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, women who were overweight or obese at age 14 or 31 were more likely to have an ischemic (clot-caused) stroke before age 55. This analysis examined more than 50 years’ worth of health data.

According to a Finnish study, even though women lost weight by age 31, being overweight at age 14 was linked to a higher risk of Stroke caused by clots later in life.

Even if they were average weight at age 14, women who were overweight at age 31 were linked to a higher risk of Stroke caused by blood clots later in life. These results are not discovered in men, but men who were obese at age 31 were more likely to experience bleeding strokes.

According to these findings, being overweight—even if the extra kilograms are temporary—may have long-term health consequences. The study highlights the need for healthcare providers to be aware of overweight and obesity in youth and assist them in adopting more active lifestyles and better eating habits. However, it’s essential to have nonjudgmental and nonstigmatizing conversations about weight with teens and young adults.

For this study, the research team analyzed data from participants in the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966. Using BMI, they investigated the possibility of an early stroke risk differential between those who were overweight or obese at age 14 or age 31 and their counterparts who were not.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke) or Stroke caused by a clot occurred in around 1 in 20 participants during the average follow-up period, approximately 39 years after the age 14 examination and approximately 23 years after the age 31 evaluation. The analysis for this study concluded in 2020.

After evaluating how periods of being overweight affected the risk of Stroke, the researchers discovered:

  • In comparison to women at appropriate weight, those who were obese at age 14 had an 87% increased risk of an early clot-caused stroke or mini-stroke, and those who were obese at age 31 had a 167% increased risk of a stroke.
  • Among men, no such connections were discovered.
  • By the age of 31, men and women who were obese had more than five and a half times higher risk of bleeding stroke, respectively, and about three and a half times higher risk for women.

Results from BMI assessments taken earlier in childhood or later in adulthood did not seem to be impacted.

It is noteworthy that other health factors influence the chance of Stroke besides weight. Beyond weight, several other factors should be considered as they also impact stroke risk.

Lead study author Ursula Mikkola, B.M., an investigator in the Research Unit of Population Health at the University of Oulu in Finland, said, “By living a healthy lifestyle (eating better, not smoking, healthy sleep, managing blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels, avoiding excess alcohol use and being physically active), you can lower your risk of stroke even if you were overweight when you were younger.”

In an accompanying editorial, Larry Goldstein, M.D., FAHA, notes, “This study provides additional evidence of an association between overweight/obesity and Stroke in young adults. However, while it is tempting to assume that reductions in overweight/obesity in younger populations would translate to lower stroke rates in young adults, this remains to be proven.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Ursula Mikkola, Ina Rissanen, Milja Kivelä, Harri Rusanen, Eero Kajantie, Jouko Miettunen and Markus Paananen. Overweight in Adolescence and Young Adulthood in Association With Adult Cerebrovascular Disease: The NFBC1966 Study. Stroke. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.123.045444

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