More Young People Having Strokes



Frightening news when it comes to young people and strokes. While stroke is often thought of as an old person's condition, new research shows a startling jump in patients aged 20-45.

"This is scary and very concerning," said Brett M. Kissela, M.D., the study's lead author and Associate Professor, Co-Director of the Neurology Residency Program, and Vice-Chair of Education and Clinical Services at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute.

According to the research: The average age of a patient suffering a first stroke in 1993-1994 was about 71. In 2005, it was just over 68, a significant decrease.

But what concerned researchers even more was the percentage of stroke patients ages 20 to 45 jumped up to 7.3 percent in 2005 from 4.5 percent in 1993-1994.

Dr. Kissela said, "What was shocking was the proportion of patients under age 45. The proportion is up, the incidence rate is up."

(See Heart Disease Strikes Kids,Too)

Kissela said it's hard to know with certainty what is driving this change, but speculated the increased prevalence of diabetes, hypertension and obesity is a major contributor.

"As physicians, we need to look for these potent risk factors even in young people," he said. "Stroke is a life-changing, devastating disease. It can affect young people, and we hope these data will serve as a wake-up call. From a public health standpoint, we need to do our best to prevent stroke at any age and monitor for stroke and stroke risk factors in all patients."

Researchers recorded the age of people hospitalized for their first-ever stroke from the summer of 1993 to the summer of 1994, then compared it to calendar years 1999 and 2005.

While the study examined data from patients in Ohio and Kentucky, researchers noted the trend is likely occurring across the country because this increase in risk factors (such as diabetes and obesity) is being seen throughout the U.S.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2010.

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