Fast Food Linked to Higher Risk of Strokes

People who live in neighborhoods with fast-food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King are far more likely to suffer strokes, researchers said on Thursday, Feb 19th, 2009.

Residents of one Texas country who lived in neighborhoods with the highest number of fast-food chain restaurants, had a 13% higher risk of experiencing a stroke, that those in neighborhoods with fewer restaurants.

This study, presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, does not say that fast-food restaurants raise the risk of strokes, but it does conclude that the two are definitely linked in some way.

“The study simply shows a true association,” Dr Lewis Morganstern of the University of Michigan’s stroke program who authored the study, said in a statement. “It is not clear whether being surrounded by fast-food outlets means you eat more of it, or that it is dangerous or that I’m just in an unhealthy neighborhood.”

“We need to start unraveling why these particular communities have such higher stroke risks,” Morgenstern said.  “Is it the consumption of fast food alone? Is it the lack of more healthy options? Is there something inherent in these neighborhoods that is associated with poor health?”, he asked.

Morgenstern and colleagues examined stroke data on residents of Nueces Contry, Texas from January 1, 2000 and June 2003. During that time, county residents suffered a total of 1,247 ischemic strokes, the most common type of blocked artery that chokes off blood-flow to the brain.

They used US Census Bureau demographic and socioeconomic data to determine the number of fast-food outlets in each neighborhood. And they compared neighborhoods with the lowest number of outlets, fewer than 12, to those with the highest number, more than 33.

They found something quite staggering. The relative stroke risk rose by one percent for each additional fast-food restaurant in a neighborhood. We’re killing people with their hunger pangs for fast and easy-to-access junk food.

“We need to start targeting communities that have a lot of fast-food restaurants as places where we can start educational and nutritional counselling programs,”  Morgenstern said.

Stroke is the number 3 killer in the United States behind heart disease and cancer. The CDC estimates that 780,000 Americans will have strokes this year. Strokes will kill 150,000 people and leave nearly 30% permanently disabled.

All because of the bad food they eat and lack of daily exercise.

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