MONDAY, May 2 (HealthDay News) -- A new U.S. survey finds that
nine out of 10 college-age adults think they're living a healthy
lifestyle, even as experts warn that that's not the case and
current lifestyles will have consequences for health down the
In fact, too much fast food, too much alcohol and too many
sugary drinks are putting people aged 18 to 24 at increased risk
for heart disease and stroke, say experts at the American Heart
Association/American Stroke Association.
"There is a clear disconnect," said Dr. Ralph Sacco, president of the AHA/ASA and a professor of neurology, epidemiology and human genetics and chairman of the department of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
"Even though young people may think they are in good health, the national statistics don't show that," he said. "Current statistics show that less than 1 percent are meeting our definition for ideal cardiovascular health."
Young people aren't recognizing the importance of ideal health,
but at the same time they feel "invincible" when it comes to their
heart's well-being, Sacco said.
"Young people may not realize that healthy behaviors now translate into better health in middle adult life," he said. "Living a healthy lifestyle at the earliest ages is critical to living free of cardiovascular disease and stroke," he said.
For example, any rise in obesity in children will have serious
health consequences later in life, he said. "If we don't do
something as early as possible -- focusing on better health
behaviors, like diet, exercise and not smoking -- it will be too
late regarding development of obesity, high blood pressure,
diabetes and high cholesterol," Sacco said.
In the survey released May 2, nearly 1,250 adults aged 18 to 44
were asked about their attitudes about health, healthy behaviors
and their personal risk for stroke.
Most of the 18-24 year olds surveyed said they want to stay
healthy and live a long time -- until they are 98, in fact.
However, nearly half (43 percent) said they aren't were concerned
about heart disease or stroke, and a third do not believe that
healthy behaviors they engage in now will affect their risk for
stroke later on.
Only 18 percent in this age group was able to identify one risk
for stroke, the researchers added.
Other highlights of the survey:
But experts beg to differ, noting that stroke prevention begins
early in the life span. In fact, people who make healthy lifestyle
choices lower their risk of a first stroke by as much as 80
percent, compared with those who don't make similar choices,
according to the AHA/ASA.
Healthy behaviors include eating a diet low in "bad" fats and
high in fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol and sugar-sweetened
beverages in moderation, exercising regularly, maintaining a
healthy body weight and not smoking.
Commenting on the survey, Dr. David L. Katz, director of the
Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine
said that "one of the things I distinctly recall about my own
teenage years was a sense of immortality, or at least a very vague
sense of my mortality."
"I'm not sure we can expect adolescents and young adults to be reliable judges of the healthfulness of their behaviors," he said. They are, to some degree, insulated against the adverse effects of their less healthy behaviors by their youth, Katz said.
They can play now, and pay later, he said. "But pay later, they
will. And, with ever-more chronic disease [arising] at an
ever-younger age, later comes sooner, and sooner," he said.
Katz doubts changing the character of youth is the answer to
"Rather, I believe it resides in changing the character of our culture, so that eating well, being active, and getting to health all lie along a path of lesser resistance. Young people may always tend to assume that what they tend to do is fine for their health. Our job is to create a society, a culture and environments that make them right," Katz said.
For more information on stroke, visit the
American Stroke Association.
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