Men had the largest increase in ischemic strokes. For men 35 to 44, it rose 50% over the time period studied. For those 15 to 34, it rose 46%. For boys 5 to 14, it rose about 51%. Put in other terms, 3.1 of every 10,000 hospitalizations for boys 5 to 14 were for ischemic stroke in 1995-1996. For 2007-2008, it was 4.7 per 10,000.
Women 35 to 44 had a 29% increase in ischemic strokes. Women 15 to 34 had a 23% increase. For girls 5 to 14, the increase was under 3%.
Mary G. George, MD, MSPH, and colleagues from the CDC comments:
"The increase in the stroke hospitalization rate from 1995 to 2008 was 30% to 37% higher" among those aged 15-44. In the young adults and adolescents, we were surprised to see that large of an increase. Seeing this in a young population really underscores the need for adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyles from the time they are very young."
The researchers evaluated strokes in which bleeding occurs in and around the brain. They evaluated strokes caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. The clot-caused stroke is known as ischemic.
The study also tracked traditional risk factors for stroke. Lee Schwamm, MD. Schwamm is vice chair of neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School said:
"The increasing incidence of [heart] disease risk factors in young patients is very concerning."
Part of the increase, he says, could be due to more sophisticated medical technology. Better imaging technology, for instance, may help identify correctly more strokes in younger people. However, risk factors such as alcohol abuse and drug abuse also could help explain the increase. Those risk factors can be linked with strokes in a much briefer time frame.
"We found significant increases in high blood pressure, lipid [cholesterol] disorders, diabetes, tobacco use, and obesity ... things we consider traditional risk factors."
Risk factors for stroke were often found in one in three patients 15 to 34 and over half of those 35 to 44 with ischemic stroke had high blood pressure. About one in four of those 35 to 44 with ischemic strokes had diabetes. Tobacco use, obesity, and cholesterol problems were common.
The bottom line is that anyone can have a stroke no matter your age, race or gender. But, the chances of having a stroke increase if a person has certain risk factors, or criteria that can cause a stroke. The good news is that up to 80% of strokes can be prevented, and the best way to protect yourself and loved ones from stroke is to understand personal risk and how to manage it.