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Be well: Meningitis linked to education levels

Adults who had bacterial meningitis in childhood have lower education levels and may be less financially self-sufficient compared with adults who did not have the condition, according to a study by Danish researchers.

Researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital looked at nearly 3,000 Danish adults who had been diagnosed with meningitis as children between 1977 and 2007 and compared their education and income levels to adults of the same age who never had the disease.

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Those who had meningitis were 6 to 11 percent less likely to complete high school, depending on the type of meningitis they had. They were also about 4 to 11 percent less likely to be financially self-sufficient as adults. Siblings of those who had meningococcal meningitis also had lower educational levels, suggesting family-related factors may have played a role; siblings of those with pneumococcal and H influenzae meningitis did not show similar declines. The authors said this suggests the association between these forms of the disease and lower education levels may be stronger.

In some cases, bacterial meningitis can lead to hearing loss, seizures, and brain damage. This study suggests the disease could affect a child well into adulthood.

BOTTOM LINE: Adults who had bacterial meningitis in childhood have lower education levels and may be less financially self-sufficient compared with adults who did not have the disease.

CAUTIONS: The study could not find a cause and effect relationship between bacterial meningitis and adult achievement levels.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Journal of the American Medical Association, April 24

‘Stroke belt’ hazard tied to teen years

Residents of the “stroke belt” in the Southeast have an elevated chance of having a stroke, but a study suggests the higher risk is limited to people who lived in the region as teenagers.

Researchers at the University of Alabama tracked 25,000 people from birth as they moved into or out of the Southeast United States. The participants, whose average age was 65, were monitored for six years for stroke risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure. During the follow-up, 615 people had their first stroke.

Those who lived in the stroke belt between ages 13 and 18 were 17 percent more likely to have a stroke than people who did not .

Habits such as smoking, poor diet, and sedentary lifestyle are often formed during the teen years, according to the researchers.

BOTTOM LINE: Among residents of the “stroke belt,” health habits during the teenage years may predict the risk of stroke later in life.

CAUTIONS: The study does not confirm a cause and effect relationship between age of living in the stroke belt and risk for stroke.

WHERE TO FIND IT: Neurology, April 24

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