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Stroke Rising in Young Populations: Here’s What You Need to Know

Often times stroke is associated with older populations, but many people are unaware that it can occur at any age. In fact, one out of five people who have a stroke are under age 55.

A stroke is a brain attack that occurs when blood vessels in the brain are blocked or burst. Strokes can cause long-term disability, impair a person’s ability to speak, see or move, and can even result in death. While you can lose everything to stroke, taking quick action at the first sign can help with recovery and have a lasting impact. Unfortunately, almost 30% of adults younger than 45 don’t know the five most common symptoms of a stroke, according to research published in The American Heart Association’s “Stroke.” At the same time, stroke is on the rise in that age group.

“Young people who are not familiar with the most common signs of stroke are at risk of inaction at a time when every second matters,” says Sheryl Martin-Schild, MD, PhD, stroke medical director at Touro Infirmary. “Both stroke survival and recovery are possible with the right care at the right time.”

Immediate medical attention is dependent on everyone learning and being able to recognize the sudden onset of the BE FAST signs and symptoms of a stroke in themselves and others and calling 911 immediately. BE FAST stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Time and refers to these signs of stroke:

  • Balance: Sudden loss of balance
  • Eyes: Loss of vision in one or both eyes
  • Face: Face looks uneven or droopy
  • Arm: Arm or leg is weak or hanging down
  • Speech: Slurred speech, trouble speaking or seems confused
  • Time: Immediately call 911

No matter a person’s age, understanding stroke risk factors is also vital, as some factors can be managed with lifestyle changes. These risk factors include high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, poor circulation, lack of physical activity and obesity. It’s important for everyone to talk to their health care provider about safely managing these factors through diet, exercise and smoking cessation, particularly for those at higher risk due to age (risk increases as you get older), race (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders have a higher risk of stroke than people of other races), sex (more women have strokes than men) and family history (risk is greater if a family member has had a stroke).

“According to the CDC, stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Therefore, it’s critical to learn the signs and take action right away,” says Dr. Martin-Schild. “It is far better to react than to regret.”

For more information and resources, visit strokeawareness.com, developed by Genentech Inc., a member of the Roche Group.

“BE FAST” was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. © 2011 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved.

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