New research suggests that there is a link between the number of neighborhood fast food restaurants and risk of stroke for people in the area. The research was presented at the International Stroke Conference of the American Stroke Association.
This particular study did not prove there was a cause and effect between fast food consumption and stroke risk. However they did find that people that lived in neighborhoods with a lot of fast food eateries had increased risk of ischemic stroke, which is the most common type of stroke.
Ischemic stroke is a stroke that occurs when a blood clot blocks the brain. This type of stroke usually happens as the result of clogged arteries, also called atherosclerosis. Arteries can become clogged when substances like fat and cholesterol form when plaque sticks on the wall of the arteries. According to Medline, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds in the United States.
1. People living in neighborhoods with lots of fast food restaurant had a 13 percent higher risk of ischemic stroke than people in areas that did not have a lot of fast food restaurants.
2. Relative risk of stroke increased 1% for every fast food restaurant in the neighborhood.
3. Researchers stated that the suggestion of increased risk is an association but not proof that eating at fast food restaurants increases stroke risk.
Further investigation needs to be done to learn whether it is fast food itself that increases stroke risk of if there was something unhealthy in the neighborhood environment that increased stroke risk.
Lewis B. Morgenstern, M.D. of University of Michigan was the lead author of the study. Morgenstern stated that a true association as shown by the data. He went on to say that there is still a question of whether the association is because fast food increases the risk or if there were lots of fast food restaurants in neighborhoods that were otherwise unhealthy. An example of a neighborhood that might be unhealthy for other reasons, such as lack of opportunites for exercise and physical activity.
Morgenstern stated, in a press release, that neighborhoods with many fast foods are prime areas to focus stroke prevention programs. Stroke prevention might include a campaign with posters and brochures in doctors’ offices and public health facilities. Awareness of the need for education may encourage doctors to starting talking frankly with patients about stroke risk.
Additional research is needed to determine whether the association between fast food restaurants and increased stroke risk are because of the food itself or other factors in the neighborhoods increase risk. Knowing the reason for the association can help medical professionals to target prevention efforts.
American Heart Association News Release: Number of fast-food restaurants in neighborhood associated ith stroke risk, February, 19, 2009. EurekAlert.
One Hamburger May Be Bad for Health: Fast Foods Hurt Performance
How to Eat Healthy in a Restaurant
UCLA Study Finds that Low Income Teens More Prone to Obesity
Stroke: Causes, Treatments and Prevention
Dash Diet for Heart Health: Prevent High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease