Stroke Risk Factors—Why Younger People Are Having Strokes

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

It used to be that only people over the age of 65 needed to worry about having a stroke. But a new study published in the journal Neurology has found reported that 15% of all strokes are now occurring in people between the ages of 15-44. They also reported that hospital discharges for stroke patients in this age range rose from 23% in the 1995/1996 to an alarming 53% in 2007/2008.

Why Are Strokes On the Rise Amongst Younger People?

Most strokes (85%) are ischemic and people are developing risk factors for ischemic strokes at younger ages. These risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The other problem is that in young people stroke symptoms are often missed, delaying critical treatment.

With a Stroke, Time Is of the Essence

For the best outcome, you want to seek treatment right away. If you think someone may be having a stroke, just remember the first four letters of the word “stroke” by asking these four things:

  • S: Ask the person to SMILE.
  • T: Ask him or her to TALK and speak a simple sentence coherently.
  • R: Ask the person to RAISE both arms.
  • O: Ask him or her to stick OUT their tongue, which should be straight.

If the person has trouble with any of these tasks, you want to call 911 immediately.

Finally, to illustrate just how important it is not to dismiss stroke symptoms, I wanted to share a little story. Years ago my wife Jan and I were at a barbecue when a friend took a tumble—and while others wanted to call the paramedics, she just shrugged it off that her new shoes had caused her to trip. Later that night, she was taken to the hospital where her stroke was diagnosed and unfortunately she couldn’t be saved.

But with early treatment the damage can be greatly mitigated. So, when in doubt seek medical attention immediately.

Now it’s your turn: Do you know a young person who has had a stroke?

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