The occurrence of a stroke is usually associated with people over the age of 65. But according to a new report, young people are now at higher risk for the condition.
The consensus report, published in the journal Neurology, analyzed the recognition and management of stroke in people between 15 and 44 years of age in the US.
The analysis revealed that overall, 15% of the most common types of strokes occur in young people and adolescents, with more young people showing risk factors for strokes.
Figures showed that between 532,000 and 852,000 people between the ages of 18 and 44 in the US have had a stroke.
US hospital discharges for strokes among people between the ages of 15 and 44 increased from 23% in 1995/96 to 53% in 2007/08, dependent on age and gender of the group.
Approximately 85% of all strokes are ischemic. This means they are caused by blockages that restrict blood flow to the brain.
According to the report, the risk factors for ischemic stroke are more apparent in young people. These risks include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, smoking and congenital heart disease.
The authors of the report say:
“Emerging data have raised public health concerns about the increasing prevalence of traditional vascular risk factors in young individuals, and their potential role in increasing the risk of ischemic stroke, stroke recurrence, and post-stroke mortality.”
They add that strokes in young people have a “disproportionally large economic impact,” as they can disable young patients before they reach their most productive years.
“While coping with the shock of having a stroke, younger survivors may be dealing with relationships, careers and raising children – issues that require additional awareness and resources,” say the authors.
They also point out that to date, there have been limited public health and research efforts that have specifically addressed the issue of stroke in young people.
Early diagnoses of the condition remains challenging, due to lack of awareness and the fact that stroke in young people is relatively uncommon – meaning it can often be misdiagnosed as other conditions.
With this in mind, they note that all these issues need to be addressed by teaching more young people about the risks and effects of stroke, as well as implementing warning signs in schools, at workplaces and in physicians’ offices.
They say that the media should also be involved in promoting awareness of stroke risks in young adults and adolescents:
“These issues make it important to formulate and enact strategies to increase both awareness and access to resources for young stroke patients, their caregivers and families, and health care professionals.”
In 2011, a study published in the Annals of Neurology revealed that between 1995/96 and 2007/08, the incidence of stroke increased by at least 23% for males and females aged between 5 and 44.