Stroke is often considered an older person's disease, but an estimated 10% of stroke patients are younger than 50.
There is an increasing trend in ischemic stroke among young adults. Young people don't typically have strokes, so when they do, it can be particularly frightening.
Usually, older people have strokes more often than young people because the stroke risk factors, such as narrowing of the arteries, increase with age. However, it's important that we understand how to decrease the risk of strokes in people under 45 and curb the rising mortality rate.
Treating and managing stroke in people under 45 requires a different approach because you need to look for different causes. There are several types of stroke, but all of them are caused by decreased blood supply to the brain. The most common type is an ischemic stroke, and they're either caused by a blood clot in the brain's blood vessels, or a blood clot that develops outside the brain and travels to those vessels.
Cardiogenic causes account for more stroke in young adults. Another cause to watch out for in young people is drug use, especially intravenous drugs. Cardiogenic causes may include rheumatic heart disease, heart valve abnormalities, and being born with a hole between the right and left side of the heart.
The most common cause of stroke in those under age 45 is caused by a dissecting blood vessel in the neck. This is a small tear in a big blood vessel that causes a clot to form and travel to the brain. Other types of stroke causes that have been linked to younger stroke age include migraine, pregnancy, birth control pills, and smoking.
Stroke prevention and recovery in young patients
A huge contributing reason for strokes in younger people is due to the rise in obesity. Obesity in children and teens is up in America, and that increases the lifetime risk for stroke. Obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, all of which contribute toward Increased stroke risk.
Here are some important prevention strategies:
- Work with your doctor to identify underlying diseases.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Start controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol at an early age.
- Recognize and control diabetes.
- Avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking.
One of the big differences between stroke in older people and younger people is recovery. Stroke in younger people can spell out a lifetime of recovery and a loss of many productive years.
The good news is that a 30-year-old has a better rate of recovery than an 80-year-old because of better brain plasticity, the brain's ability to adjust and learn new skills.
If you feel you fall within a high risk category for stroke and want to get ahead of it, visit your doctor immediately.