Strokes on the rise among younger people; do you know the signs?

Strokes on the rise among younger people; do you know the signs?

At age 34, Katie May was a successful businesswoman and model. Her massive social media presence led her to be dubbed the “Queen of Snapchat.” She was young, fit, healthy and attractive.

But last year, May died from something many young people believe is an “old person’s disease” – she had a stroke.

While the cause of May’s stroke was rare – she suffered a tear in her vertebral artery after a chiropractic neck adjustment – the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that there’s been an increase in strokes in general among younger people. Not only that, but a recent national survey conducted by the University of California – Los Angeles found that three out of four young adults would delay going to the hospital if they were experiencing stroke symptoms and would instead wait to see if the symptoms passed.

“That’s a real problem,” said the survey’s lead researcher, Dr. David Liebeskind, in a press release. “We need to educate younger people about the symptoms of stroke and convince them to see the urgency of the situation, because the numbers are going up.”

According to the AHA, between 2000 and 2010, the number of people aged 25-44 who were hospitalized with strokes increased nearly 43 percent.

A report by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) indicates that younger patients are less likely to seek timely emergency care for stroke-like symptoms because they don’t recognize that they are at risk for stroke and because “stroke is still considered a disease of the elderly.”

Unlike the unusual cause of May’s stroke, most strokes are ischemic, caused when oxygen to the brain is cut off due to a blockage in a major blood vessel. Approximately 15 percent of all ischemic strokes happen to young adults and adolescents, the AAN reports. Ischemic strokes can happen to anyone at any age and can lead to paralysis and other physical, verbal and cognitive difficulties, if not death.

Doctors agree that the three hours after someone first experiences a stroke symptom are the most critical, as the medical care provided in that time window can effectively restore blood flow and reverse or minimize damage.

Regardless of the victim’s age, the symptoms are mostly the same, says Dr. Herman Dick, an Advocate Medical Group neurologist on staff at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill.

“There are sudden symptoms: sudden change in vision, such as partial loss of vision or double vision; sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body; sudden onset of loss of balance,” Dr. Dick says. “Sometimes sudden dizziness can be a sign of a stroke, rather than an inner ear problem.”

Sudden speech and comprehension changes can also indicate a stroke is occurring, says Dr. Dick – whether that is trouble getting words out or problems understanding what someone else is saying. A headache may be another warning sign, but strokes can sometimes occur without one, he adds.

Dr. Dick warns that sometimes the symptoms can seem to clear up within 5-10 minutes. “We call that a transient ischemic attack, which is often a warning of a bigger stroke to come.”

Stroke symptoms should never be taken lightly, regardless of how quickly they may seem to come and go.

“No matter what your age, if it seems like a symptom could be a stroke, call 9-1-1,” says Dr. Dick.

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  1. Insurance Co. have made it so everyone second guesses a trip to the hospital.. It’s impossible for doctors to give proper care to their patients in a timely manner. Insurance has so many hoops they have to jump first!! It’s a vicious cycle Hospitals, Doctors, Pharmaceuticals and Insurance Co.

    Luckily at 54 I’m feeling pretty healthy. But who knows really? I haven’t been to the Dr in 2 years, because I fear having a stroke caused by debt.

  2. Eleanor Bennett March 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm · Reply

    While we have all read these type of articles, this is a subject that scares me to death. My grandmother, mother and uncle have all had debilitating strokes leading to eventual death. Here’s the clincher, you say go to the ER because you have fairly routine symptoms like a headache (what woman hasn’t had sudden headaches), light headed/dizziness (pretty common with woman of all ages especially during menstruation) and loss of balance (another common one especially over 50). If I could get more than 3 minutes with my Advocate doctor they may actually be able to notice my family history. I keep my BP under control and Cholesterol levels and take a baby aspirin each day but frankly there are not been much advancement with preventing this silent killer for over 50 years. How about an some tests that can be run periodically and doesn’t bankrupt a high risk patient?

  3. Nancy Vivirito March 27, 2017 at 1:23 pm · Reply

    I work in an Advocate office and on 3/15/16 I had a stroke while at work, it was not confirmed until hours after because I had dizziness, nauseous and unsteadiness, which are not the signs of stroke, I was finally taken down to the ER, so all signs need to be addressed immediately

About the Author

Eric Alvin
Eric Alvin

Eric Alvin, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. He has more than 20 years of experience in both internal and external health care communications, media relations, and creating online and print marketing content. He has a great love of classic cinema and is a big fan of Turner Classic Movies.