By Christa Sgobba
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in men, as we recently reported. But despite what you may think, it’s not only older guys that are driving that statistic.
According to a new study published in JAMA Neurology, more and more young people are having strokes. In fact, between 2003 to 2004 and 2011 to 2012, hospitalizations for ischemic stroke—the most common type, caused by a clot that blocks blood flow to the brain—rose by 42 percent in men ages 35 to 44. That was the biggest spike seen in any age group during that time, the researchers discovered.
And even younger guys aren’t immune, either. During that time, the hospitalizations rates for stroke in men ages 18 to 34 rose by 15 percent. What’s more, that number of stroke hospitalizations was nearly twice as high as it was back in 1995 to 1996.
Now, the spike in stroke for younger people isn’t exactly new: Back in 2011, some of the same researchers published a study that found stroke rates were increasing in those 44 and younger. But it wasn’t exactly clear if the increase in strokes noted was due to better diagnostics—like an increase in imaging testing—or due to an actual increase in occurrence.
But this study also looked at stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, and obesity. The researchers also found a coexisting spike in these risk factors, too: In fact, the percentage of men ages 35 to 44 who had a stroke and had 3 to 5 of those risk factors increased from 19 percent in 2003 to 2004 to 35 percent in 2011 to 2012.
Plus, a separate study also found that increasing in imaging techniques like CT scans and MRIs didn’t seem to influence stroke rates, so it seems like the increase in strokes is a real one.
That means younger people need to be aware of the signs of stroke, since quick treatment can be vital for survival and recovery. Here’s what to look for, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): sudden weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially in one side; sudden confusion; sudden trouble seeing; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or lack of coordination; or severe headache.
If you experience these symptoms, call 995 right away—stroke treatment works best if it’s diagnosed within three hours, the CDC says.