Strokes rising among youth

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High blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol are all the risk factors for stroke, researchers highlighted in a report published in the Sept. 1 issue of the Annals of Neurology magazine.

During the past years, researchers noted a rise in stroke among youth. They discovered that diabetes, cholesterol and tobacco use “has also increased in adolescents and young adults experiencing stroke.” According to statistics, the number of people aged 15 to 44 hospitalized for stroke jumped by more than third only between 1995 and 2008. The increase may be due partly to the increasing numbers of young people who have diseases, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes – diseases usually associated with older adults.

Stroke is largely preventable and eating a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity, avoiding tobacco and alcohol abuse can go a long way to prevent stroke. Schools, universities and public organizations need to encourage people to lead healthy lifestyles from the time they are very young.

The researchers found that almost one in three ischemic stroke patients 15 to 34 years old, and over half of those 35 to 44, had high blood pressure. In addition, one-fourth of the patients 15 to 34 years old who had ischemic strokes also had diabetes. Among those female patients 15 to 34, one in four were smokers, as was one in three males aged 15 to 44. Moreover, many had high cholesterol and were obese.

Earlier studies found that stroke in teens and young adults accounted for 5 percent to 10 percent of all strokes, and that it is one of the top 10 causes of childhood death.

Traditionally, strokes in the very young have usually been caused by different factors than those in older people. For adults, advancing age is a major stroke risk factor, with rates approximately doubling for every decade over age 55 years. Although about a third of strokes occur in persons under age 65, rates in children and young adults tend to be quite low.

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S. and Europe. Eighty-seven percent of strokes are called ischemic strokes, where clots or plaque block blood flow to the brain.

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