According to an investigation conducted by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1995 and 2008, ischemic stroke hospitalization rates rose up to 37% in adolescents and young adults aged between 15 to 44 years. The findings, reported in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society, reveal a rise in the rates of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, lipid disorders and tobacco use among individuals in this age group during the 14-year investigation period.

In the U.S. stroke is the third leading cause of death, The American Heart Association reports. 87% of all cases are connected to ischemic stroke, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked by blood clots, or there is a build-up of fatty deposits called plaque (atherosclerosis) inside blood vessels. Previous investigations state stroke in adolescents and young adults makes up for 5% to 10% of all stroke cases, as well as being one of the top ten causes of death in childhood.

Hospital discharge information from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample of Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project was used by CDC investigations to identify patients hospitalized for ischemic stroke. Also, examined in the investigation were stroke risk factors and comorbidities among those individuals admitted to hospital with stroke.

Mary George, M.D., M.S.P.H., lead author of the study and a medical officer with CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention explained:

“We identified significant increasing trends in ischemic stroke hospitalizations among adolescents and young adults.

Our results from national surveillance data accentuate the need for public health initiatives to reduce the prevalence of risk factors for stroke among adolescents and young adults.”

The investigation discovered that out of the patients hospitalized for ischemic stroke, nearly one in three were aged between 15 to 34 years old, and over half aged between 35 to 44 years were also diagnosed with hypertension. Out of the patients aged 35 to 44 years, one-fourth also had diabetes. Tobacco users made up for one in four females aged 15 to 34, one in three females aged 35 to 44, and one in three males aged 15 to 44. Additional common co-existing conditions included obesity and lipid disorders.

The researchers suggest that in order to avoid stroke, adolescents, their guardians, and young adults can help by preventing and controlling hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol, eating lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, foods low in sodium and saturated fat, maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity and not smoking.

CDC is working with public- and private-sector partners at the national, state, and local levels to educate Americans about the risk factors, health effects, and prevention measures of stroke. The agency is also enhancing the monitoring of stroke causes, associated conditions, and hospitalizations, as well as expanding the scientific literature on these topics.

Written by Grace Rattue