A stroke is a type of “attack” that occurs in the brain. It is caused when blood flow to any one area of the brain is blocked, or cut off. As a result, brain cells suffocate, and the areas of the body that are controlled by that part of the brain are gravely affected. Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, approximately 800,000 people experience a stroke. Strokes are often associated with older adults, especially those who smoke or have high blood pressure. The truth is, a stroke can happen to anyone, including younger, healthy individuals. It is important to recognize the signs of a stroke, and take action fast.
What is a Young Stroke?
Strokes are on the rise in younger individuals. Approximately 15% of the 800,000 strokes that happen each year occur in younger adults, and even teens. In the past 10 years, that has been a 44% increase in the number of younger people being hospitalized for strokes.
But why is this happening? Some doctors are attributing the rise in young stroke to similar risk factors for older adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet and obesity. For some of the young adults who suffer strokes, theirs have been attributed to things such as congenital heart defects or injuries to the arteries found in the neck. Even minor injuries can cause a serious problem. Other factors for young stroke may include things such as hormonal birth control, pregnancy, migraines, dehydration, infections, and heart disorders.
One of the biggest issues among younger individuals is that they don’t seek medical treatment because they don’t realize that they are having a stroke. And the longer medical treatment is delayed, the higher the risk of disability or death. But by recognizing the symptoms, the odds of survival, and even making a full recovery, are much greater.
The American Heart Association has an acronym designed to help all people to recognize the symptoms of a stroke: FAST.
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Speech difficulty
- Time to call 911.
Often, younger adults attribute these symptoms, along with dizziness and exhaustion, to other issues, and therefore ignore them. By recognizing these symptoms and dialing 911 immediately, prompt diagnosis and effective treatments can be administered.
A major difference between young stroke survivors and older stroke survivors is recovery. For some young survivors, recovery can mean several years of lost productivity, difficulties raising children, and financial burdens. The good news, however, is that many young stroke survivors tend to recover faster, due to better brain plasticity. They also have fewer additional health issues, which means that recovery is a lot less complicated.
Following a stroke, people need to take measures to prevent subsequent strokes from occurring. These measures include quitting smoking and drinking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and managing blood pressure and cholesterol. Many young survivors are also prescribed blood thinners or other medications by their cardiologist or other specialist, which must be taken as prescribed.
Why Young Stroke Survivors Need a Medical ID
While blood thinners are critical for the prevention of subsequent strokes, they also have risks associated with them. In particular, the body cannot clot normally if you are injured, which greatly increases your risk of bleeding out. For this reason, bleeding needs to be treated immediately, and emergency responders need to know that you are on blood thinners in order to properly evaluate you. What appears to be minimal bleeding for one individual can have serious consequences for those on blood thinners, and bleeding needs to controlled immediately.
Additionally, blood thinners significantly increase your risk for internal bleeding as a result of trauma, which may not be immediately apparent to the EMTs treating you at the scene. For these reasons, it is important that you wear medical alert jewelry. Your medical ID should list your history of stroke, along with your blood thinner use. In particular, it should list the exact type of blood thinner, as there are multiple kinds, and each one comes with different treatment considerations. Wearing a medical ID can greatly impact your treatment outcome, especially if you are unable to advocate for yourself in the event of an emergency.