Younger People Experiencing Stroke At Higher Rates; Medical Center Offers Advice

NEWARK–Most people think of stroke as a dangerous medical condition that affects only older adults. But according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ischemic stroke hospitalization rates rose up to 37% in adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 44 years between 1995 and 2008.

The findings, reported in the September 2011 Annals of Neurology, attribute the increase in stroke at younger ages to a rise in the rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and tobacco use among individuals in this age group.

“In order to decrease the risk of stroke, adolescents and young adults should aggressively treat any high blood pressure, diabetes and elevated cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and cut out tobacco use,” says Eric J. Wasserman, MD, FACEP, Chairman of Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “A stroke is serious, just like a heart attack, and damage to the brain can affect many critical functions like speech, strength, sensation, ambulation and vision, ranging from mild to severe impairments.”

The investigators reported that among the patients hospitalized for ischemic stroke, nearly one in three were aged between 15 and 34 years, and hypertension was present in over half of those aged between 35 and 44 years.

In the U.S., stroke is the third leading cause of death, The American Heart Association reports, and each year in this nation there are more than 700,000 strokes.

More than 87% of all cases are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow through a vessel to an area of the brain is blocked by blood clots. Other less common strokes result from bleeding within the brain.

Treatment is available which can greatly reduce the damage caused by a stroke. If the stroke is caused by a blood clot, a clot-busting drug may be given to dissolve it, but the patient must reach a hospital and receive the clot-busting medication within three hours after symptoms begin.

“There is a narrow window of opportunity to use intravenous thrombolytics such as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA),” reports Dr. Wasserman. “When given early, these medications can help limit stroke damage and disability, and are safer to use. ”

The Warning Signs of a Stroke
It is important for people at any age to know the warning signs of a stroke and to act quickly by calling 9-1-1 immediately at any sign of stroke. Use FAST to remember the warning signs:

F: Face, does one side of the face droop when you ask the person to smile?
A: Arms, when the person raises both arms, does one drift downward?
S: Speech, does the person slur or speak strangely when reciting a simple phrase?
T: Time, if you observe any of these signs, don’t waste time in calling 9-1-1.

Stroke symptoms include:

  • numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side.
  • confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • severe headache with no known cause.

For more information about the warning signs of stroke or for a referral to a Newark Beth Israel Medical Center neurologist, call 1-888-724-7123.

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