Health and wellness

Teenagers in Hong Kong don’t get enough fruit, vegetables or exercise and risk strokes in later life

Doctors warn such trends could increase the chances of stroke later in life or result in younger people succumbing to disease

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 4:55pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 October, 2017, 9:25pm

Doctors have warned that Hong Kong teenagers are at growing risk of suffering strokes later in life, with a survey showing a “worrying” trend of youngsters rarely exercising and eating too few fruits and vegetables.

Released on Sunday, World Stroke Day, survey results show that out of 12,405 secondary school pupils, 56 per cent have diets where vegetables formed no more than a third of their intake, while 4 per cent ate no greens at all.

The study, conducted between last month and this month by the Hong Kong Stroke Fund, a non-profit organisation, also found 28 per cent of pupils did not have a habit of eating fruits every day.

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About 38 per cent exercised less than one hour each week, and another 42 per cent exercised only two to three hours weekly. But 62 per cent said they had a habit of snacking.

Researchers interviewed pupils from 83 secondary schools by questionnaires, with 41 per cent of the respondents in Form One or Two.

“The results are worrying,” fund president Dr Dawson Fong To-sang, a neurosurgery specialist, said.

“If they start these habits in Form One, it will be scary to consider how they will be like by Form Six.”

Not eating enough vegetables and fruits, constantly snacking and having very little exercise could lead to high blood pressure as well as high blood sugar and fat, which were all known risk factors of stroke, Fong said.

In Hong Kong, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death, with 3,500 people killed by the disease every year.

If they start these habits in Form One, it will be scary to consider how they will be like by Form Six
Dr Dawson Fong To-sang, neurosurgeon

Fund member and neurologist Dr Joshua Fok Wai-ming said there had been a growing trend of stroke occurring in younger people. The youngest stroke patient he had treated was only 18 years old.

Fok cited a government study, which showed that there was a 20 per cent increase in the number of stroke sufferers aged between 35 and 44 from 2002 to 2004, compared with those from 1999 to 2001.

He said people with high blood pressure were three times more likely to suffer from stroke, and the younger they had this condition, the higher the risks.

He added that smokers and people who were obese were twice as likely to suffer from stroke.

Fok recommended five portions of vegetables and fruits every day, with one serving equivalent to a small orange or half a bowl of vegetables.

He also suggested that people exercised for at least five times a week.

Chow Chi-yung, 41, a recycling industry worker, suffered from a stroke in August.

Chow said he started smoking from 11 and only stopped at the age of 33, after he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and later diabetes.

Having to work 16 hours a day, Chow said he used to eat a lot of junk food such as instant noodles, as well as high-fat fast food with very little vegetables and high salt content.

“Young people should not think that they can smoke or eat whatever they want because they are young,” Chow said. “Such habits can affect the rest of your life. It will catch up with you when you are older.”