Research shows stroke risk is increasing for young adults

The unfortunate reality is that a stroke can occur virtually anytime, such that a person may feel just fine one minute while the next minute they start experiencing strange symptoms, including slurred speech, loss of vision and general confusion.

As if this wasn't frightening enough on its own, most people are aware that they need to get to a hospital as soon as possible in order to secure the necessary treatment to minimize any lasting damage from the stroke, such as impaired speech, limited movement and cognitive issues.    

While we tend to associate the nightmare that is a stroke with older people, a growing body of research is actually showing that this may no longer be the case. Specifically, this research shows that younger Americans are now suffering strokes in far greater numbers:

  • A 2010 study published in the medical journal Stroke determined that between 1988 and 2004 the rate of strokes among 35- to 54-year-old women tripled.
  • A 2011 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the hospitalization rate for ischemic (i.e., blood clot) strokes among 15- to 44-year-olds jumped by over a third from 1994 to 2008.

What makes these figures all the much more discouraging, say researchers, is that the increased stroke rate among young people isn't necessarily linked to rare medical conditions, but rather seemingly manageable ones like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Further compounding the problem of this increased stroke risk, say experts, is that emergency medical professionals aren't necessarily trained to look for strokes among young people, many of whom initially report experiencing headaches or dizziness -- two symptoms that can be attributed to a host of other diagnoses besides strokes.

This, of course, means many of these young people experiencing minor strokes are being sent home without receiving the necessary anti-clotting drugs, greatly elevating their chances of suffering a major life-changing stroke shortly after discharge.   

While the prevailing thought it that young people who suffer strokes typically bounce back as their brains are more resilient than their elderly counterparts, consider that recent studies have determined that as many as 12 percent of stroke victims age 50 and under never fully recover their independence after a decade.

It's important for people whose lives have been turned upside down by a stroke to understand that they do have options for much-needed financial assistance, including Social Security disability benefits.

Source: The Washington Post, "Strokes, long on the decline among the elderly, are rising among younger adults," Liza Gross, June 16, 2014