Stroke risk among youth

By Stephanie Saviola

Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the U.S. and strokes are the third leading cause of death in the country, according to the American Stroke Association.

New findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show strokes in younger people are on the rise. The results suggested that this might be due to an increase in diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure in younger generations. However, the reasons behind the increase were not included in the results.

A stroke may seem like a rare thing to happen to anyone younger than 35, but the results showed stroke hospitalizations have increased among people ages 15 to 44 while they decreased more than 25 percent in men and women over 45.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me she knew several people our age who have suffered mild strokes and I was shocked. I was being ignorant, but I thought strokes were a rarity among younger people until I looked at some of the factors that cause them.

The report looked at the number of stroke hospitalizations from 1994 to 2007. There was a 51 percent increase among males 15 to 34 years old. Additionally, there was a 17 percent increase among females, 15 to 34 years old.

Like any serious health problem, dietary factors and perhaps recreational drug use could be culprits behind the increase. Numerous earlier studies showed diet soda and energy drink consumption could be stroke facilitators. These studies were later discredited for inconsistent findings.

A lack of education about what causes a stroke could be another reason for the increase in the younger demographic. People might not be aware of factors that can cause strokes or even warning signs and symptoms.

According to, stroke symptoms include: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs, sudden confusion or trouble speaking and severe headaches and dizziness. American Stroke Association recommends that if you have any of these symptoms call a physician immediately.

A drug called tissue plasminogen activator or tPA can be administered within three hours of symptoms to help reduce long-term disability caused by strokes.

The severity of damage from a stroke depends on the location of the clot in the brain and the amount of brain tissue effected.  Long-term stroke damage includes paralysis, memory loss, speech problems and vision problems.

Dietary and lifestyle choices are important to always take into account, but awareness and education of stroke symptoms might help prevent fewer hospitalizations in younger people.