Can excess screen time cause a stroke in children?

There has been a surge in the use of screen time, more so during the pandemic. This has made the younger generation more prone to stroke attacks. So, how can you protect your children? Here’s all you need to know!

Wake up in the morning, and the first thing youngsters (or even the elderly) check is their phone, and glance through all social media apps. For online classes or work purposes, they switch on their laptops for hours with one or two breaks in between. To wind up in the night, they again immerse themselves in their cell phones or laptops, and binge-watch shows on OTT platforms. They mindlessly continue scrolling through reels and videos online. Sounds familiar? If this is what your children’s daily routine looks like, then let us break it to you that health consequences may be severe.

To further explain, a 2021 study published in the Stroke Journal of the American Stroke Association stated that adults under 60 with increased screen time exposure and sedentary lifestyles, are more prone to a stroke than those physically active.

Data from the World Stroke Organization (WSO) says that one in four people may suffer a stroke attack in their lifetime. According to a recent study of The Lancet Global Health, non-communicable neurological disorders’ contribution in India doubled to 8.2% in 2019 from 4.0% in 1990, with stroke leading the charts. What was once considered a disease of the older population is now affecting the youth in high numbers. Every year there are 1.8 million individuals in India who suffer from a stroke. It is also the fifth leading cause of death and disability!

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There’s more to life than screen time! Image courtesy: Unsplash
Increased screen time and stroke

The US study highlighted that one’s life expectancy is reduced by up to 22 minutes for every hour of digital screen time. This makes a person more prone to a stroke and various heart ailments, cancer, etc.

Another UK-based study showed that the possibility of a stroke was significantly high with continued two-hour exposure to digital screens (laptop, TV, cell phone, etc.). Beyond two hours and in cases of addiction, the chances of a stroke increase by 20%. Thus, a sedentary lifestyle and unlimited screen time are some major risk factors for stroke.

Rise of strokes among the youth

The pandemic has pushed us into a situation where most working adults and children are required to stick to their screens for prolonged hours, either for work or academics. These are the times when we must be highly cautious of our health.

The young generation, particularly your children’s age, are also infamous for being glued to their mobile screens, all of which escalates the possibility of a stroke. Blue light from screens reduces melatonin production (the hormone released at night associated with control of the sleep-wake cycle), which makes it difficult to sleep and wake up on time.

Leading such a lifestyle also makes an individual vulnerable to other diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart conditions, etc. These are all interlinked:

  • A person with diabetes is twice as likely to suffer from a stroke, as the damaged blood vessels hasten the onset of ischemic stroke (happens from a blood clot blocking or narrowing the artery to the brain)
  • High LDL (bad cholesterol levels) initiates the build-up of plaque in the arteries, which ends up restricting blood flow to the brain, thus leading to a stroke.
  • Hypertension is the cause for approximately 50% of ischemic strokes and increases the threat of hemorrhagic stroke (brain bleed).
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Did you know that your long screen times can actually cause PCOD? Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
Here are some lifestyle changes that your children can adopt:
  • It is necessary that they take an hour-long walk every day to negate the ill effects of physical inactiveness;
  • Exercise daily for 30 minutes;
  • Limit their screen time and take frequent breaks from work.

Stroke is a treatable condition, hence applying the FAST approach (Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speach slurred; Time to call an ambulance) within the golden period of six hours, will be a saviour.

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