A stroke can happen to adults in younger age groups, even those younger than 45.
It’s not that well known that strokes among younger adults have been on the rise over the past two decades.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one-third of stroke victims hospitalized in 2009 were less than 65 years old. While the vast majority of strokes occur in older seniors, it’s estimated that one-fourth of strokes afflict people in the 45 to 65 age group, and up to 10 percent occur in adults under 45.
Disabilities, including paralysis or impaired speech, may create a larger financial burden on the families of younger stroke survivors, according to the National Stroke Association.
“Stroke certainly happens to younger individuals,” said Breanna Cabeceiras, stroke coordinator at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. “When I attend stroke conferences, there is a lot of talk about strokes in younger adults.”
Many of the stroke victims who arrive at the Florida Avenue hospital are not seniors. Cabeceiras said about 45 percent of the hospital’s stroke population is younger than 65. Doctors has sometimes called itself a safety-net hospital serving a larger percentage of low-income patients and people with chronic disease.
Given the age-related perceptions about stroke, those younger individuals dealing with symptoms may think something else is wrong with them. “What we do in the hospital is work them up to see what possibly caused the stroke,” said Cabeceiras, a registered nurse and neuro clinical specialist.
Hospital staff might discover the patient has chronic high blood pressure and has not seen a primary care doctor for a couple of years.
Strokes occurring in the younger adult population are attributed to these risk factors: hypertension, diabetes, smoking, obesity and high levels of bad cholesterol in the blood.
The most common type of stroke is a blood clot that forms in a narrowed blood vessel in the brain. The potentially life-threatening episode may cause weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, language problems and emotional effects. A ruptured aneurism is a bleeding type of stroke that’s more common in younger adults, Cabeceiras said.
The stroke program at Doctors uses FAST as an acronym for the major symptoms and the quick action needed for treating a stroke. The first three letters stand for facial drooping, arm weakness and slurred speech or difficulty speaking. If you or a loved one experience one of those warning signs, the “T” stands for “time to call 911”.
Other less common symptoms, which may be associated with a stroke, are severe headache, dizziness and vision changes.
Time is important in the treatment options for stroke because quick treatment reduces the risk of permanent disability. With a clotting-type episode, a medication can be administered to break up the clot. It must be given within 4 1/2 hours of stroke onset, Cabeceiras said.
Two years ago, Doctors introduced a noninvasive radiological procedure that finds the clot in the brain and pulls it out. It’s an option within 24 hours of symptoms. In addition, a procedure can be done to stop bleeding from an aneurism.
Health experts believe 80 percent of strokes are preventable by knowing the risk factors. Those with high blood pressure are advised to take prescribed medication to control it. Lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercise and kicking the cigarette habit can reduce the risk.
Rehab therapy for stabilized stroke patients should begin in the hospital and continue after discharge for the brain to build pathways for recovering skills.
Cabeceiras will be one of the speakers at a free community seminar on stroke prevention and treatment. The lunch-and-learn event on Thursday also will feature talks by a neurointerventional radiologist and cardiologist on the signs of stroke and cardiac issues like atrial fibrillation, which may heighten stroke risk.
The seminar begins at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Doctors Medical Center McHenry Conference Center, 1445 McHenry Ave. To register, call 833-204-7720.