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    Are your children at a higher risk of stroke from increased screen time?

    By Emily Hagan | Published on Oct 18, 2023

    In today’s digital age, it’s become a common sight for children and even adults to start their day by reaching for their phones, scrolling through social media apps, and spending hours in front of screens for work or online classes. They continue this trend well into the night, binge-watching shows and mindlessly scrolling through online content. But did you know that this excessive screen time can have serious health consequences, especially for your children?

    A recent study published in the Stroke Journal of the American Stroke Association revealed that adults under 60 who have increased screen time exposure and lead sedentary lives are more susceptible to strokes compared to those who are physically active. The World Stroke Organization reports that one in four people may experience a stroke attack during their lifetime, and stroke is now a leading cause of non-communicable neurological disorders in India.

    Gone are the days when strokes were considered a disease primarily affecting the older population. Shockingly, strokes are now affecting the youth in alarming numbers. In India alone, 1.8 million individuals suffer from strokes each year, making it the fifth leading cause of death and disability. These statistics clearly show that strokes are a serious concern that affects individuals of all ages.

    The Connection Between Increased Screen Time and Strokes

    Numerous studies conducted worldwide have highlighted the relationship between excessive screen time and an increased risk of strokes. A US study revealed that every hour of digital screen time reduces a person’s life expectancy by up to 22 minutes, making them more prone to strokes, heart ailments, cancer, and other serious health issues. Another study based in the UK demonstrated that prolonged exposure of two hours or more to digital screens, including laptops, TVs, and cell phones, significantly raises the possibility of strokes. Moreover, addiction to screens further increases the chances by an additional 20%. Therefore, leading a sedentary lifestyle combined with unlimited screen time poses major risk factors for strokes.

    The Pandemic and Rise of Strokes Among the Youth

    The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many working adults and children to spend prolonged hours on screens for work or academic purposes. While it may be unavoidable, it’s crucial to be aware of the potential health risks associated with excessive screen time, especially for the younger generation. Children are notorious for their addiction to mobile screens, and this behavior significantly escalates the likelihood of strokes. Additionally, the blue light emitted by screens inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone associated with regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Consequently, this can disrupt their sleep patterns, making it challenging to maintain a healthy sleep routine.

    Living a sedentary lifestyle and spending excessive time in front of screens also increases the vulnerability to other diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions. These conditions are interconnected, as diabetes doubles the chances of suffering a stroke, high LDL (bad cholesterol levels) contributes to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, thereby restricting blood flow to the brain, and hypertension increases the risk of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes.

    Lifestyle changes for a healthier future

    To mitigate the risks associated with excessive screen time, there are several lifestyle changes your children can adopt:

    • Encourage them to engage in physical activity such as taking an hour-long walk every day to counteract the effects of physical inactivity.
    • Make sure they set aside 30 minutes each day for exercise to keep their bodies active and healthy.
    • Set limits on their screen time and encourage them to take frequent breaks from work or online activities.

    Remember, strokes are a treatable condition, and recognizing the signs and acting swiftly can make a significant difference. Familiarize yourself and your children with the FAST approach: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurred, Time to call an ambulance. Acting within the golden period of six hours can potentially be a life-saver.

    It’s time to prioritize our children’s health and well-being by finding a balance between screen time and physical activity. Encourage them to step away from screens, get moving, and embrace a healthier lifestyle. After all, their long-term health is at stake.

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