Strokes increase sharply in young adults

Strokes are typically associated with older adults being the victim of this malady.  But a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association has found hospitalizations for the most common stroke, ischemic stroke, increased sharply by 44 percent in young adults ages 25 to 44. 

What is an ischemic stroke

Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain is blocked by a blood clot causing the blood to not be able to reach the brain.  This type of stroke accounts for about 87percent of all strokes.  When the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients found in the blood, brain cells begin to die resulting in a multitude of symptoms.

Why the rise in young adults

The alarming rise of strokes in young adults in primarily attributed to lifestyle risk factors – obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.  These risk factors are typically seen more frequently in older adults who are more likely to be at risk of a stroke. 

Other factors not related to lifestyle factors affecting young adults and that could increase the possibility of a stroke can be congenital heart defects or having had a prior injury to arteries in the neck. 

Every year more than 750,000 people in the United States have a stroke with about 610,000 of them being first time strokes.  Strokes kill almost 130,000 Americans every year – one out of every 20 deaths.  About 90 percent of strokes in the US occur in people age 50 and older.  Strokes are often considered more a man’s disease yet more women die from stroke than breast cancer.

One thing the researchers pointed out in this study is many people do not recognize the symptoms of a stroke and therefore do not seek medical attention.  This would result in the number of hospitalizations most likely being lower than the actual number of people having a stroke.

Time is critical when having a stroke

Once it is realized a person is having a stroke, it is crucial to get them medical attention as quickly as possible.  Each minute that goes by untreated, nearly two million brain cells will die.  This significantly increases the risk of disability or death.  For a young adult who is not expecting to have a stroke, this makes them vulnerable to long-term or permanent disability when they miss the small window of opportunity for treatment.

The sooner a person can be given a clot-busting medication such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the greater the chance to prevent further brain damage. 

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Knowing how to recognize when you or someone else may be having a stroke is key to preventing permanent damage to the brain or death.  If you act fast, strokes are highly treatable.  The best way to remember what to look for is to memorize the acronym FAST – this is from the American Heart Association and can help you spot a stroke taking quick action:

F – Face drooping

Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?  Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?

A – Arm weakness

Is one arm weak or numb?  Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S – Speech difficulty

Is speech slurred?  Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.”  Is the sentence repeated correctly?

T – Time to call 911

If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get the person to the hospital immediately.  Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Tips for reducing a stroke

·         Lower your blood pressure

·         Lose weight

·         Exercise more

·         Drink in moderation

·         Treat atrial fibrillation

·         Treat diabetes

·         Quit smoking