Stroke Risk on the Rise in Younger Adults
Ashley Jowett
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

Stroke Risk on the Rise in Younger Adults

Know the warning signs and reduce your risk

Not that long ago, strokes were considered the concern of “old people.” But in recent decades, stroke rates and hospitalizations have increased by more than 40% for adults under the age of 45.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Every year, an estimated 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.” Studies suggest younger adults, ages 18 – 54, have had increased stroke hospitalizations over the past 15 years. Risk factors in this population include hypertension, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, and alcohol use. Young adults have the feeling of being invincible; they think strokes are an old person’s health issue. Knowing the warning signs and seeking help immediately can help minimize the negative impact of a stroke.

What’s behind the risk
Jennifer Thuermer, DNP, ANCP, of SVMC Cardiology, says young adults can have other risk factors, such as oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, and congenital defects that may impact blood flow.

“The good news,” says Thuermer, “is that a high percentage of strokes may be preventable simply by making healthier lifestyle changes.” Diet and exercise, she adds, will help maintain a healthy weight. Following a heart healthy diet includes making a decision to avoid processed foods. Substituting with fresh options can reduce sugar and salt intake. Trying to get a 30-minute walk in 3 – 5 days per week can reduce your risk of stroke. Quitting tobacco, alcohol, and other recreational drugs can reduce stroke risk. And it is important to reduce stress levels that can drive high blood pressure. Sleep patterns are important in maintaining good health, too; insufficient sleep can increase your risk for stroke.

Act Fast
Warning signs of a stroke at any age:

  • Balance: A sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Eyes: Sudden changes in vision, including loss of vision in one or both eyes, or double vision
  • Face: Sudden weakness or drooping on one side of the face
  • Arms: Sudden weakness in one arm or leg
  • Speech: Sudden slurred speech or difficulty speaking or understanding words
  • Head: A severe, sudden headache that is unlike any other headache you’ve ever experienced could also be a sign of a stroke.
  • Time: Call 911 quickly if someone is experiencing any of these symptoms. Go to the hospital in an ambulance.

Nothing is more important than time when someone is suffering a stroke. The sooner someone gets medical attention, the better their chances of recovery. The more time that passes, even just 5 or 10 minutes, the greater the risk of brain injury, permanent disability, and death. 

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