Living near fast food increases stroke risk, study finds;

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Living near fast food increases stroke risk, study finds; High levels of
sodium in meals take Toll on blood pressure
Tom Spears
Ottawa Citizen, Feg. 20, 2009
Here’s a new way to estimate the risk of stroke in a neighbourhood: Count
the number of fast-food restaurants nearby.
A survey of a county in Texas shows a direct link between plentiful fast
food and high stroke rates, according to evidence presented yesterday at a
major stroke conference.
 People in neighbourhoods with the greatest number of fast-food
outlets had 13 per cent more strokes than people living near the fewest such
restaurants, Dr. Lewis Morgenstern found. (His research covers ischemic
strokes, in which a clot blocks blood supply to the brain. It’s the most
common type of stroke.)
As well, he found, the relative risk of stroke increased by one per cent for
each fast-food restaurant in a neighbourhood.
A change of one per cent doesn’t sound big. But with 50,000 major strokes a
year in Canada, a one-per-cent increase would mean 500 more people who
either die or become very sick.
That’s not counting smaller strokes, which are more numerous (though hard to
count accurately). They can cause dementia and memory loss.
The Texas findings make good sense in Canada as well, says the Canadian
Stroke Network, a network of lab scientists and medical doctors.
The stroke network has new ads on OC Transpo buses this week that say:
“Sodium kills 30 Canadians each day.”
“We know that fast food is loaded with sodium, and we know that sodium has a
major impact on blood pressure, and blood pressure is the biggest risk
factor for stroke,” says Kevin Willis, a biochemist at the network. Mainly
it’s the salt, though fast food can also have high fat levels.
By coincidence, he is in talks with Health Canada this week aimed at
reducing the amount of salt in Canada’s food supply.
“Unfortunately it (too much salt) is right across the board,” he said. “It’s
really being added in ridiculous amounts.”
Adults should have no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt a day, the stroke
network says. The elderly and children should have less.
A single slice of Pizza Pizza’s Canadian pizza, as served to walk-in
customers, contains 1,920 mg of sodium. A Wendy’s Baconator burger has 1,880
mg, while its chicken club sandwich has 1,360 mg. McDonald’s Big Mac has
1,040 mg.
Dr. Morgenstern is head of the stroke program at the University of Michigan.
“The data showed a true association,” or definite relationship, between
unhealthy food and stroke, he said. “What we don’t know is whether fast food
actually increased the risk because of its contents, or whether fast-food
restaurants are a marker of unhealthy neighbourhoods.”
One quarter of the neighbourhoods had fewer than 12 fast-food restaurants.
One quarter had more than 33.
Results were presented yesterday at the American Stroke Association’s annual
conference, in San Diego.
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About Donna Jodhan

Donna Jodhan is an award winning blind author, advocate, sight loss coach, blogger, podcast commentator, and accessibility specialist.
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