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The latest cardiology and stroke research on holds bad news for millennials and, if preventative measures aren’t taken, for generations to come.

The good news: research unveils that baby boomers born between 1945 and 1954 are the “stroke-healthiest generation.” The bad news: rate of stroke more than doubled in Generation Xers born between 1965 and 1974. The findings are based on a study that took place over a 20 year period in New Jersey, with a focus on a very mixed social demographic. Joel N. Swerdel, MS, MPH, the lead author explains, “the incidence of stroke has decreased significantly overall since 1950, due to the advancement of medicine.” However, he goes on to warn that, “we found that trend to be reversing in younger generations where obesity and diabetes are likely causing an increase in cardiovascular disease.” That means that though GenXers are twice as likely to have a stroke as their parents, the rate will only continue to rise in millennials and millenials’ children—unless significant change is made.

While the research did not involve causes (either good or bad), the researchers did contribute the upward trend to several factors including lack of adherence to prescribed treatments (prescriptions, lifestyle changes etc.), a significant increase in obesity, and the prevalence of diabetes throughout the US. “Diabetes has been on a continuous upswing over the last 40 years, and is particularly seen in the youngest generations,” notes Swerdel. Diabetes and obesity are direct risk-factors for CVD and stroke. Researchers also attributed some of the increase to advanced diagnostic technology because we are simply catching symptoms and potential strokes much earlier and more often. Still, the bad outweighs the good in this situation and the increased incidence of stroke in the youngest study group (aged 35-50) is alarming and merits further research.

These new findings could enable physicians to help patients of all ages avoid a stroke, but, and perhaps more importantly, it raises questions about the impact that early lifestyle choices can have on long-term health. Swerdel explains, “People, especially those under 50, need to realize that stroke does not just occur in the old, and the outcome can be much more debilitating than a heart attack—leaving you living for another 30 to 50 years with a physical disability.” This data is invaluable to cardiologists who are trying to explain to their younger, at-risk patients the need for significant lifestyle changes.

You can also check out the original research here: