Under 45? What You Need to Know About Stroke.

A mid-adult couple in the park.

Did you know the incidence of strokes in people under the age of 45 has increased by as much as 53 percent since the 1990s?  It’s true. Unfortunately,  75 percent of Americans 45 and under don’t know the signs and symptoms of stroke, according to a new national survey.

For many people, stroke symptoms are often confused or ignored for other things like vertigo (dizziness) or paresthesia (sleepy arm). Simply knowing the symptoms of a stroke can save you from years of strenuous rehabilitation, and possibly even save your life.  Here’s what to look for, and what to do if you or someone nearby is having a stroke,  according to Louise D. McCullough, M.D., co-director of the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center and the Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Distinguished Chair of Neurology at the John P. and Kathrine G. McGovern Medical School at UTHealth.

9481-1 MH Is It a Stroke GraphicIs it a stroke? Think F.A.S.T.

Although stroke symptoms can vary among different people, one thing to remember is F.A.S.T. (Face, Arm, Speech and Timing):

  • A droopy Face, weakness in one Arm, slurred Speech or speech that doesn’t make sense are some of the most common initial symptoms.
  • Timing is extremely vital to successful treatment. Technology has come a long way in the last decade but for every minute between a stroke and treatment, you could be sacrificing one and a half days of healthy life after your stroke, and possibly become ineligible for the best treatments such as the clot-busting agent tPA or new treatments like thrombectomy, an intervention where the clot is removed by a catheter.


Preventing Stroke

While recognizing symptoms quickly can help avoid major damage from a stroke, regular doctor visits are key to prevention. The 53-percent increase in strokes among younger Americans can be attributed to a variety of factors including obesity, smoking and inactivity. Young adults also shy away from regular doctor visits because they think such visits are unnecessary. However, it is recommended to visit your primary care physician at least once a year to track blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels early on so you can prevent issues later in life.

Genetics also play a large role for stroke victims. If you know your family has a history of strokes, regular doctor visits are even more important. Your doctor can help you monitor for warning signs and help manage common lifestyle triggers of strokes.


Strokes More Common in Women

It’s especially important for women to take preventative action – strokes are the third leading cause of death for women, and each year 55,000 more women have a stroke than men according to the National Stroke Association. Here are some possible reasons why.

  • A small percent of women have headaches and confusion instead of F.A.S.T. symptoms, which makes it more difficult to notice a stroke.
  • Women rely heavily on OB-GYNs during pregnancy years, which is good as long as they are receiving all of the necessary checkups and continuing to see a doctor regularly after they have children.
  • Pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia can trigger strokes later in life. If you have hypertension during pregnancy, you should be screened for stroke more often in your 50s and 60s.

What to Do if Stroke Strikes.

The tragedy of strokes is how greatly they can impact your independence and quality of life. Technology has come a long way in making most strokes treatable if you can quickly identify the signs and get to a hospital immediately. Knowing the symptoms can lessen the amount and the disability that they cause by simply being informed, aware and alert.

If you or someone nearby suffers a stroke, immediately call 9-1-1 to ensure life-saving treatment is administered as quickly as possible.

To learn more about stroke treatment and prevention, visit Mischer Neuroscience Institute.

Tashika Varma