Any person can experience a stroke at most any age. Chances of a stroke go up if you exhibit a variety of risk factors. The best protection for you and your family from stroke is to understand it and how to successfully work with it. The changes brought about by a stroke are very sudden. In the space of a few seconds a person can go from being reasonably well and independent to being very ill and disabled. The alteration takes the person and all his or her family by surprise, and this makes it more difficult to cope with. If someone close to you has a stroke, you might find it hard to understand what is going on or what will happen next. Getting information about it might help you deal with all the changes a little better.
Though for most young people stroke stroke seem like an impossibility, there is no such thing as being too young for stroke. Risk of stroke increases with age, but stroke in young people does happen, including infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. In general, however, most experts consider a young stroke age to be under 45.
Even though the overall rate of stroke is decreasing, it is increasing for young and middle-aged people, those between 20 and 54 years of age. A study published in the journal Neurology looked at stroke trends in the Greater Cincinnati area between 1999 and 2005. They found that the mean age of stroke decreased from 71 years to 69 years, and the rate of stroke in the 20 to 54 age range increased from about 13 percent to 19 percent.
“A few studies suggest that stroke in younger age is increasing, but firm evidence is lacking,” says Andrew Russman, DO, a neurologist and stroke care specialist at the Cleveland Clinic. “Overall, stroke incidence is down. It may be that we are doing a better job of recognizing young stroke.”
Here are some yearly statistics for stroke age under 45 in the United States:
- Stroke occurs in 4,000 infants.
- From birth to age 18, there are 11 strokes for every 100,000 children and teens.
- Stroke in all people under age 45 ranges from 7 to 15 per 100,000.
Stroke in people under 45 require treatment and management because you need to look for different causes. “Compared to stroke in older people, stroke in the young is a different beast,” says S. Ausim Azizi, MD, head of the neurology department and professor of neurology at Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia.
All strokes are caused by decreased blood supply to the brain. In older adults, the most frequent cause is a blood clot that forms inside the heart or a blood vessel, breaks loose, and travels to the brain. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke. In children, however, common causes include infections, trauma, heart disorders, sickle cell disease, and dehydration.
“Cardiogenic causes account for more stroke in young adults. Another cause to watch out for in young people is drug use, especially intravenous drugs,” says Dr. Azizi. Cardiogenic causes may include rheumatic heart disease, heart valve abnormalities, and being born with a hole between the right and left side of the heart, called patent foramen ovale.
“Up to 25 percent of stroke under age 45 is caused by a dissecting blood vessel in the neck. This is a small tear in a big blood vessel that causes a clot to form and travel to the brain. Other stroke causes that have been linked to younger stroke age include migraine, pregnancy, birth control pills, and smoking,” says Dr. Russman.
Stroke can happen when the blood flow to sections of your brain stops. Blood provides vital elements such as oxygen and essential nutrients to your brain. When blood is cut off brain cells will be harmed or die. In people of any age, most strokes are caused by blockage thereby sealing off blood supply to parts of the brain. Research shows strokes caused by bleeding in the brain occurs more readily in people younger than 65. Strokes affect everyone in different ways, based on which part of the brain is affected, how large the damaged affected and how your overall state of health prior to stroke. Stroke survivors often face an uphill battle when it comes to recovery. Fifty percent of stroke survivors end up with disabilities that prevent them from completely taking care of themselves and their daily needs. Complications that may follow stroke include communication problems involving both language comprehension and speech. Stroke survivors may also experience paralysis on one or both sides of the body, as well as loss of control over their muscles. Swallowing may be difficult; memory problems and loss of memory are also common, as are pain and numbness throughout the body.
Stroke is a frightening condition to deal with. While you can’t control all of the risk factors, you can influence a great many of them. Keeping health conditions under control and focusing on following a healthy diet, not smoking, and getting plenty of regular exercise can help to decrease your likelihood of having a stroke. Symptoms include sudden weakness or even numbness on either side of the body, dizziness, confusion and general unsteadiness. Early warning signs include drooping at the mouth, slurring words or an inability to perform simple tasks. A stroke may impact how your body operates.
The changes brought about by a stroke are very sudden. In the space of a few seconds a person can go from being reasonably well and independent to being very ill and disabled.
The alteration takes the person and all his or her family by surprise, and this makes it more difficult to cope with.
If someone close to you has a stroke, you might find it hard to understand what is going on or what will happen next. Getting information about it might help you deal with all the changes a little better.
Stroke is an extremely time sensitive issue. The faster a stroke victim is transported to proper professional help, the more likely the impact of the event will be less than if the person had to wait for an extended period of time.
*Research for this article came from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention and the American Stroke Association.