A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology by Gidding SS, et al and Zhang Y, et al. showed that elevated BP and LDL cholesterol in young adults increased the risk for cardiovascular events later in life. How much later? The study followed people for an average of 17 years and noted 4,570 coronary heart disease events, 2,862 strokes, and 5,119 heart failure events out of 36,030 patients. They started at age 18 to 39 and then evaluated after age 40. That is a total of 12, 551 heart related events or 35% of that group had an event in 17 years of follow-up. If the LDL was less than 100, the risk was nullified. If the systolic BP was less than 120mmHg the risk was nullified, and if the diastolic BP or bottom number was less than 70 the risk was nullified. If a young adult had a BP of 130 vs 120 there was a 37% increase in risk for coronary heart disease. A diastolic BP of 80 vs. 70 was associated with a 21% increased risk of coronary heart disease.
The conclusion of this study was that this young population needs to be screened and treated aggressively. Unfortunately, that means adding medications earlier to treat numbers instead of directing care to reverse disease. Hypertension and high cholesterol are not reversed by medication. The mere fact that we are seeing younger people with lifestyle diseases earlier is a manifestation of lifelong poor eating habits. The norm to eat take out food and fast food multiple times a week is a relatively new phenomena. Younger people are exposed to highly processed foods from the time they start taking solid albeit soft foods. Children are wean to soft breads, cakes, processed vegetables and meats and dairy. Lack of jaw bone and muscle development as been associated with poor breathing habits and a much greater need for corrective orthodontics. Research estimates 7 out of 10 millennials are overweight or obese versus 50% of baby boomers.
We must start taking personal responsibility for this trend. It starts with recognizing that nutrition is the key to health and at the root of lifestyle diseases. Eating habits form in childhood. Sugary foods and drinks become the norm for sweetness. There is a huge fiber deficiency in teens and young adults leading to an abnormal microbiome. This is associated with abnormal calorie extraction from foods, abnormal cravings and a general inflammatory state. Excessive acne and being overweight is associated with increased hormonal intake from animal proteins and dairy. Colleges attract potential students by their array of fast food choices. Dinning hall cards are used on high salt, high fat foods. There is no education on healthy eating for the students. This results in the college weight gain of 10-30 pounds that is looked on as a right of passage. Many athletes are overweight and calorie restrict and binge to control their weight because of lack of education. There is no safe dose of fast foods.
People continue to eat poorly once out of school and often become more sedentary. They attempt to control their weight with low carbohydrate, high fat diets that are admittedly unsustainable resulting in “cheat days”. The end result is a high fat, high sodium, high calorie diet leading to cardiovascular disease.
This is clearly a reversible condition. If people were becoming sick because of bad water, there would be warnings not to drink the water. We are treating the food borne illness of hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia with medicine instead of cleaning up the nutrition. Health care providers from nursing assistants, to registered nurses, to physicians should be examples of good nutrition choices. I hear the excuse that the hospital cafeteria has poor choices as well. Vote with your dollars. Don’t eat in the hospital cafeteria. Bring food from home. Do not poison yourself in the name of convenience. Don’t be afraid to say that food causes lifestyle diseases and I am not interested. If you say it enough and remain consistent, people will get the message.
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