The surprising truth about stroke among young adults

The surprising truth about stroke among young adults

“I can’t have a stroke – I’m too young.”

Does that thought sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. Most young people do not think stroke can happen to them. However, recent data tells a different story:

  • Just over 1/3 of Americans who suffer a stroke are under the age of 65.
  • In the Chicagoland area, this statistic is even higher compared to the national average.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability in the US, and when a stroke occurs in a young adult, it has the potential to lead to long-term mortality and socioeconomic consequences. In honor of Stroke Awareness Month, here are three common questions young adults have about stroke and what they can do to help prevent this devastating disease.

  1. Why are so many young people having strokes?

Risk factors for stroke are occurring more frequently in people at a younger age. Recent studies have shown that although modifiable risk factors are the same for both younger and older adults, some risk factors appear more often than others in young adults. High blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol are the top three leading risk factors for stroke in this age group. Because prevention is the primary strategy in prevention of stroke in young adults, it is essential to have a discussion with your doctor in order to identify your risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease and start taking control.

Some of the biggest risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  1. What if I don’t know if I have stroke risk factors?

Know your heart score. The American Heart Association designed “Life’s Simple 7” to educate the public on how to avoid stroke and cardiovascular disease. This simple 5-minute questionnaire will help you identify any risk factors for stroke you may have.

  1. How do I know if I’m having a stroke?

It is important to recognize and call 911 immediately if you or someone you know are showing any of these signs and symptoms of stroke:

  • Face drooping
  • Weakness of one side of the body
  • Speech difficulty
  • Dizziness or feeling off balanced

Remember, stroke happens at any age, is often preventable and can be treatable!

  • Know your risks.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices, like regular exercise and wholesome diet choices.
  • Seek immediate medical attention at the first signs of stroke.

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  1. I love reading your information daily but for this article, you should mention the different kinds of stroke there are. Last July, I had what the doctors called a hemorrhagic stroke due to a cavernous malformation in my brain stem. When I mention to people that I had a stroke, everyone automatically thinks it was a blood-clot stroke, but it was more like a brain bleed instead of a blockage. I was also told that many people may not realize they have them unless, like me, they had some slight numbness in my fingers and lips so I went to the ER. I know that the most common types are the blockage kinds but I think it is helpful to include info about the more brain-bleeding type too. Thanks!

  2. I had a Vertebral Artery Dissection that led to a stroke while I was driving. I was 42 at the time and my vertebral artery was nicked from a chiropractic neck adjustment that led to a clot and subsequent stroke. DO NOT get your neck manipulated my a chiropractor!

  3. My fiance’s cousin just had a stroke recently. She is only 32 years old. She is not obese, she doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t have diabetes. I’m not sure about her blood pressure or cholesterol, but she was one of the last people I’d expect to have a stroke. She knew something wasn’t right so she went to her local hospital (not Advocate) and in the ER they didn’t recognize she was having a stroke! She ended up seeing her neurologist later that day (she has migraines) and he sent her right back to the ER (at a different hospital). It frustrates me to no end that her local hospital didn’t recognize her stroke!

About the Author

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Lauren Clutter

Lauren Clutter is a nurse outcomes abstractor at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, Ill.