Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is often associated with advanced age, according to the American Stroke Association. As you might assume, most stroke victims are people age 65 and older, and the risk for stroke doubles every decade after age 55.
However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, of the more than 795,000 people in the United States who suffer strokes each year, 34% of people hospitalized for stroke were less than 65 years old. The American Stroke Association has found, “Despite a decline in the general population, stroke rates—and hospitalizations for it—have increased by more than 40% among younger adults in the past several decades.”
The driving force behind these rising rates is still largely unknown. However, some researchers have different theories. An analysis by Scientific American found that more young people who experienced strokes tended to live in the midwest or western part of the United States, and they also tended to live in urban areas.
A study published in Neurology found that people who suffer from migraines with aura, women who use estrogen-based birth control and those who use drugs recreationally are typically at a higher risk for strokes.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Neurology found hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking are significant risk factors for strokes in young adults.
No matter the risk factor or cause, it should be noted that these younger groups of people have less awareness of stroke symptoms and how to recognize them in someone.
The American Stroke Association revealed, “Almost 30% of adults younger than 45 don’t know the five most common symptoms of a stroke.”
The study, published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Stroke, assessed the awareness of adults age 45 and younger of the five most common stroke symptoms and what to do when a stroke is suspected.
They found a third of respondents were not aware of all five symptoms and some respondents didn’t know a single symptom of stroke.
Knowledge is power and could mean the difference between full recovery or a lifetime of cognitive deficits when it comes to strokes. Understanding what causes a stroke and what its symptoms are is crucial to getting stroke sufferers the help they need.
“Think of a brain experiencing an acute ischemic stroke as a suffocating brain where seconds count,” Peach Robison, Davis Hospital and Medical Center‘s stroke coordinator said.
An ischemic stroke is one of three types of stroke a person can experience. About 87% of strokes are classified as ischemic strokes, which occur when a clot or another mass blocks a blood vessel which, in turn, cuts off blood flow to part of the brain.
“With each minute that passes, you lose about 2 million brain cells,” WebMD explains. “The longer you go without oxygen, the greater your chance for brain damage that can’t be undone. After about 10 minutes, the damage can be severe.”
Less common are hemorrhagic strokes, also known as bleeding strokes, which occur when a blood vessel in or near your brain bursts. The third stroke classification is a TIA (transient ischemic attack), also known as a mini-stroke. In a TIA, the blockage is temporary, but it is still considered a medical emergency.
“Symptoms will be exactly the same as a stroke and even though the symptoms resolve, the community should understand that approximately 15% of strokes are preceded by a TIA and people who experience a TIA are at a much higher risk to have an ischemic stroke within 90 days,” Dr. Komal Rastogi, Neurologist and Clinical Neurophyiologist, explained.
“The Stroke Team at Davis Hospital and Medical Center Primary Stroke Center will perform diagnostic studies to identify controllable risk factors and educate the patient on stroke prevention strategies.”
The acronym F.A.S.T. was developed to help people remember the symptoms of stroke. It stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 9-1-1. If you suspect you or a loved one is experiencing a stroke, it is crucial to call emergency services rather than attempt to drive to a hospital.
“Patients who receive Alteplase, a clot-busting drug, within 90 minutes of symptom onset are approximately three times more likely to recover with little or no disability,” said Rastogi.
“If the blockage occurs in one of the larger vessels of the brain, Davis Hospital and Medical Center is the only Thrombectomy capable facility in Davis County. We have specialized neurosurgeons available who are qualified to use a medical device called a stent retriever to pull out a clot if it is located in a large vessel in the brain,” Rastogi went on.
When minutes matter, Davis Hospital and Medical Center Primary Stroke Center is minutes away. For more information on stroke awareness and education, visit their website.
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