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Overweight teenagers at greater risk of stroke in middle age

Overweight teenagers are putting themselves at risk of suffering from a stroke in later life, researchers have said.

A team from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been looking at the effect a higher body mass index (BMI) might have on adolescents as they reach adulthood.

They found a link between overweight teenagers and a higher risk of stroke in adults under 50, regardless of whether they had also developed type 2 diabetes in later life.

Study co-author Dr Gilad Twig, an associate professor in the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces and the department of military medicine at the University, said: “Adults who survive stroke earlier in life face poor functional outcomes, which can lead to unemployment, depression and anxiety. The direct and indirect costs attributed to stroke prevention and care are high and expected to keep increasing since the rate of stroke continues to rise.”

The study findings were based on BMI weight and stroke figures before the age of 50 from two nationwide databases. Data was collected from about 1.9 million men and women aged between 16 to 20 initially who had all completed a medical examination between 1985 and 2013.

During the follow-up, carried out between 2014 and 2018, more than 1,088 strokes were recorded and the average age of their first stroke was 41. All those who had experienced the stroke had had a higher BMI as a teenager.

Compared to those who had a lower BMI during adolescence, the fatter teens had a two-times higher stroke risk before the age of 50. That risk factor went up to 3.4-times among the obese teenagers.

Dr Twig said: “Our findings underscore the importance of effective treatment and prevention of high normal and excessively high BMI during adolescence. Our study is also the first to show that the risk of stroke associated with higher BMI values is the same for both men and women.”

The study has been published in the Stroke journal, which is part of the American Stroke Association.

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