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Height during childhood associated with increased stroke risk in adulthood


Researchers in Denmark studied the health records of more than 300,000 people born between 1930 and 1989 and found that those who were shorter than average height between ages 7 and 13 had a greater risk of stroke as adults. The results of this study were published in the February 15, 2018 issue of the journal Stroke.


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Stroke or a “brain attack” is one of the top ten causes of death in the U.S. In 2017, it claimed the life of over 140,000 people. A stroke happens when part of the brain is deprived of blood/oxygen either because of a clot in an artery or an artery burst. Regardless of the cause, the result is the same, brain cells die.

There are many factors that increase the risk of this happening, some we can control and some we cannot. According to the American Stroke Foundation,   the risk factors not under our control include:

Age (the likelihood of a stroke almost doubles every 10 years after age 55)
Family history (if your grandparents, parents or siblings had a stroke, especially before the age of 65, it
increases your risk of stroke)  
Race (blacks are at greater risk of dying from a stroke than Caucasians)
Gender (more women have strokes and die from them than do men.)
TIA (Transient ischemic attack), prior heart attack or prior stroke

Based on the results of this latest research, height during childhood seems to be another uncontrollable factor associated with an increased chance of a stroke.

Although there is nothing we can do to change the uncontrollable risk factors, there are other controllable risk factors we can change to decrease our chances of stroke as much as possible. The lifestyle risk factors we can control include:

Smoking – quit! Smoking is the most important risk factor for stroke.
Weight  - lose weight by eating healthier whole foods and paying attention to portion size  rather than
                “going on a diet.”
Diet – eat less red meat, processed foods and added sugar and more fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds,
            whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy.
Alcohol intake – limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day if you are male, one drink if you are female
Lack of exercise – get up and move! Sit less, walk more.

Some medical conditions also increase our risk of stroke, but all are controllable including:

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib, an irregular heart rhythm)
High blood pressure
Diabetes (quadruples stroke risk)
High cholesterol

If you have any of these medical conditions but do have them under control, talk with your health care provider about what changes you can make to get them under control.

If you or someone you know is at risk of stroke, knowing the warning signs and getting medical attention as fast as possible can help save brain cells and minimize damage.

Act FAST…call 911



For more information:

National Stroke Association
What is stroke

Mayo Clinic

American Stroke Foundation
Risk Factors

Harvard Medical School – Heart Letter
How to lower your stroke risk

Joanna Hayden, PhD, CHES is the principal of Associates for Health Education and Behavior, LLC, in Sparta, a practice focused on improving health through education. Her office offers individual and group health education, and individual health behavior change guidance.  For more information please see  To contact Dr. Hayden, email her

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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