When you think of the average stroke patient, you might picture someone who is aging and has experienced significant health problems in the past. The reality is that stroke can happen to anyone, though the risk is highest in elderly individuals. Still, stroke before the age of 45 is something that younger adults should be aware of, as the potential for successful treatment and full recovery is highest when stroke is diagnosed and addressed with medical care right away. Let’s take a closer look at stroke in younger patients to help you get an idea of your risk.
Causes of young stroke
In older adults, stroke is most often ischemic, which means that it is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain tissue due to a blockage. Younger patients face hemorrhagic stroke more frequently, which means that there is damage to a blood vessel that lets blood leak and pool in areas of the brain. This may be caused (or at least aggravated) by birth defects, contraceptive use, or cigarette smoking. Intravenous drug use is another possible cause of stroke in patients under 45. Existing health problems like sickle cell disease or heart disorders may also be at fault.
Stroke by numbers
The National Stroke Association estimates that 6 in every 100,000 children are affected by stroke in the U.S., though the numbers of younger stroke victims—including adults under 45—appears to be on the rise. The reason behind this is the obesity epidemic, which has seen more and more cardiovascular risk factors that can also lead to stroke developing in younger patients. These factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and poorly controlled blood sugar.
Eliminating the “stroke can’t happen to me” attitude is the first step in better recognizing and addressing the symptoms of stroke. In younger patients, seizures are a common effect of stroke, but more typical symptoms such as trouble with balance, weakness on one side of the body, and sudden headaches may also occur.
If you suspect that you or a loved one is having a stroke, the emergency room at Northside Hospital will provide the lifesaving treatment needed to minimize the chance of long-term disability and complications. We also offer stroke support groups and rehabilitative services to ensure a lifetime of better health following a stroke. Learn more about our services in St. Petersburg on our website or at (888) 598-9586.