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More Millennials Are Having Strokes

In a disturbing report, Scientific American has revealed that an unusual number of U.S. young people ages 18 to 34 are having strokes. The stroke “centers” seem to be in the West and Midwest, with metropolitan areas seeing larger increases than rural areas. While the reasons why this is happening aren’t clear, some researchers think obesity, diabetes and physical inactivity may be contributors; pollution is another concern.

It’s a known fact that poor air quality not only can exacerbate cardiovascular and lung conditions, but also trigger cell death and atherosclerosis, as well as stroke. To that end, toxic exposure from air pollution is responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths in the world, with vehicle emissions contributing heavily.

But, as the researchers imply, diabetes and obesity also play a part, with a high-sugar diet being a major cause of both diabetes and obesity, as well as heart disease. Other stroke risks include smoking, lack of exercise and sedentary behavior, vitamin D deficiency, insufficient sleep and stress.

Stress increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by causing overactivity in your amygdala — your brain’s fear center, which is activated in response to both real and perceived threats. In short, people who are highly stressed have higher activity in the amygdala. This in turn triggers inflammation, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Beyond the obvious of choosing a healthier diet and lifestyle, it makes sense, then, to learn how to deal with and eliminate stress in your life, no matter what your age. One strategy I use to relieve stress is the 4-7-8 breathing exercise. To do it, sit up straight and place the tip of your tongue against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process. Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four; hold your breath to the count of seven and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight. Repeat the cycle three times, for a total of four breaths.
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