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Ubiquitous Drive-Thrus, 13% Higher Risk

fast food
If you already view fast-food restaurants as a blight upon the urban landscape, consider that each one you see in your neighborhood could be raising your stroke risk by 1%. If you live surrounded by them, your stroke risk might be 13% higher than if you lived where they were fewer and farther between.

Those are the implications of a University of Michigan study which compared the number of strokes occurring over a three-year period in one Texas county with neighborhood concentration of fast-food outlets. Lead author Lewis Morgenstern, M.D., said, “We don’t know whether fast food actually increases the risk because of its contents, or whether fast-food restaurants are a marker of unhealthy neighborhoods.” What is known is that factors like fat consumption, alcoholic beverages, low fruit and vegetable intake and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to higher stroke risk.

Strokes are the #3 killer in the country, after heart disease and cancer. Each year, about 780,000 Americans suffer from strokes, 150,000 of whom will die from them. Avoiding fast food would seem a good place to start in minimizing your risk, especially as it poses so many other health threats — to kids as well as adults.

New Zealand researchers found that 75% of kids who eat even one burger a week are 100% more likely to experience wheezing and asthmatic symptoms. Children who eat fast food daily are far more likely to suffer from recurrent abdominal pain, and French fries could increase your daughter’s future risk of breast cancer. No wonder Harvard researchers were alarmed to discover that 80% of Chicago schools had a fast-food outlet within walking distance.

Bonus: Make your own lean turkey or salmon burgers at home and you could get some unexpected health benefits from condiments like mustard and ketchup — when used in moderation, of course!

Published April 1, 2009

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