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AHA: Diet sodas and excess salt both linked to strokes

The latest from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association’s joint International Conference on Stroke 2011, which is going on in Los Angeles this week from Wednesday through Friday.

Diet soda may raise odds of vascular events; salt linked to stroke risk.

Two large studies on a mixed-race/age/gender/other health status population have just shown that:

1. Drinking diet soda every day increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next 9-10 years. In the study, diet soda regulars had a 48% higher rate than nondrinkers even after accounting for metabolic syndrome and existing or past heart disease.

2. For every 500 milligrams of sodium you eat per day over the AHA’s recommended 1500 max, you have a 16% higher risk of getting a stroke–no matter whether you have high blood pressure or normal blood pressure.

There was one other piece of really bad news announced:

The Centers for Disease Control’s analysts looked at hospitalizations for ischemic stroke (blocked arteries to the brain) between 1994 and 2007 and found that while strokes are decreasing in people over 65 (which is good), they’re INCREASING in children, teens and younger adults. Although older adults still have much higher overall risk of stroke than younger people, the trend toward higher stroke hospitalization rates for younger people is significant and needs to be explored further. Stroke hospitalizations increased by:

  • 31% among boys 5-14; 36% among girls 5-14
  • 51% in men 15-34, 17% in women 15-34
  • 47% in men 35-44, 36% in women 35-44

The CDC researchers didn’t have clear evidence of a cause for the rise in strokes among younger people, but said the rise in average body weight, blood pressure and diabetes, which are known risk factors for stroke, bore a closer look.

The fact that stroke hospitalization rates started rising in children over 5 (the researchers looked at younger children as well but didn’t find an increase under age 5) suggests to me that part of the trend may be due to a more processed diet with higher salt consumption as children head for school. All in all, it gives you the impression that we are the junk food generation, and it’s catching up with us as we speak.

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