Tag Archives: what is a stroke

Alarming increase in millennials 18-34 getting strokes

A stroke is a medical condition in which poor blood flow to the brain results in cell death and part of the brain not functioning properly. There are two main types of stroke:

  1. Ischemic, due to lack of blood flow typically caused by blockage of a blood vessel.
  2. Hemorrhagic, due to bleeding either directly into the brain or into the space between the brain’s membranes.

In 2015, stroke was the second most frequent cause of death after coronary artery disease, accounting for 6.3 million deaths worldwide (11% of the total). About half of people who have had a stroke live less than one year.

Signs and symptoms of a stroke may include an inability to move or feel on one side of the body, problems understanding or speaking, dizziness, loss of vision to one side, or a severe headache. When that happens, get medical help immediately.

The risk factors for stroke are high blood pressure, tobacco smoking, obesity, high blood cholesterol, diabetes mellitus, a previous stroke, and atrial fibrillation.

Strokes affect mainly older people, not the young. Overall, two thirds of strokes occurred in those over 65 years old. But more U.S. millennials — young adults 18 to 34 years old — are getting strokes.

In a study published earlier this year in JAMA Neurology, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that strokes among millennials increased from 2003 to 2012 by 32% for women and 15% for men.

Ralph Sacco, president of the American Academy of Neurology, remarked that although the evidence suggests that the overall incidence and mortality of stroke is on the decline, the rates may be increasing among younger populations: “The reasons for these trends are not entirely clear,” but there are concerns about obesity, diabetes, physical inactivity, and drug use “having a greater impact in younger stroke victims.” (PBS)

Scientific American conducted a further study of strokes among millennials, using data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Here are the study’s findings:

  • Confirmation of earlier studies that pointed to nationwide increases in strokes among millennials.
  • Statistically significant regional differences in millennials’ stroke rates (2003 to 2012):
    • 70% increase in the West as a region; 85% increase in western cities with more than one million residents.
    • 34% increase in the Midwest.
  • The higher stroke rates in the West and Midwest were not due to better brain-scanning technology and improvements in stroke detection.
  • The study concludes that drug use and racial disparities (blacks have more strokes than whites) may be factors.

Mitchell Elkind, a stroke expert at Columbia University and New York–Presbyterian Hospital who reviewed the Scientific American study, points out the troubling implications of increasing numbers of millennials having strokes:

  • In the short term, severe strokes among younger adults are a big problem because disability in people in their peak earning years can severely impact their families and future lives.
  • Longer-term, more strokes—even relatively mild ones—among younger adults are worrying because they portend an upcoming epidemic of worse attacks in another 30 years. Not only are stroke risk factors such as obesity and smoking cumulative over time, second strokes are more likely to be stronger and potentially fatal. Elkind said: “We are just seeing those little waves hitting the beach now but that tsunami will come in the future.”


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How to recognize signs of a stroke

A stroke refers to a blood vessel in the brain bursting or, more commonly, being blocked, resulting in oxygen not being delivered (via red blood cells) to the brain.
Without treatment, cells in the brain quickly begin to die. The result can be serious disability or death, which is why stroke is a medical emergency and a leading cause of death in the United States.
That is why it is important that we recognize a stroke when it is happening, either in ourselves or in a loved one, so that emergency medical attention can be obtained without delay.
The information below is from WebMD:

Signs of a stroke may include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the body, especially on one side.
  • Sudden vision changes in one or both eyes, or difficulty swallowing.
  • Sudden, severe headache with unknown cause.
  • Sudden problems with dizziness, walking, or balance.
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding others.

Call 911 immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.

simple test to determine if someone has had a Stroke

If you suspect someone you know has had a stroke, give him/her the F.A.S.T. test:

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of his/her face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise his/her arms. Does one arm drift down?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence after you? Does he or she have trouble speaking or slur words?
  • Time. Time is critical. Call 911 immediately if any symptoms are present.

Time = Brain Damage

Every second counts when seeking treatment for a stroke. When deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin dying within minutes. There are clot-busting drugs that can curb brain damage, but they need to be used within three hours — up to 4.5 hours in some people — of the initial stroke symptoms. Once brain tissue has died, the body parts controlled by that area won’t work properly. This is why stroke is a top cause of long-term disability.

Diagnosing a Stroke

When someone with stroke symptoms arrives in the ER, the first step is to determine which type of stroke is occurring. There are two main types and they are not treated the same way. A CT scan can help doctors determine whether the symptoms are coming from a blocked blood vessel or a bleeding vessel. Additional tests may also be used to find the location of a blood clot or bleeding within the brain.

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