More young adults are suffering strokes - are you at risk? | Norton Healthcare Louisville, Ky.

More young adults are suffering strokes – are you at risk?

More diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are leading to more strokes in young adults.

Two years ago, Traci Johnson experienced a stroke. She was 46.

“One day I was eating lunch with a friend and the next thing I knew, I was seeing double and was immediately rushed to Norton Audubon Hospital,” Traci said.

She’s now fully recovered thanks to receiving immediate medical care. Traci recalled she had no reason to think she was at risk for a stroke.

“Because of my young age, I never thought about the possibility of having a stroke,” she said.

Strokes don’t happen to just the elderly

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. While a vast majority of strokes occur in people over age 65, they are not limited to this age group.

According to the National Stroke Association, 15 percent of strokes occur in adolescents and young adults. The number of young people hospitalized due to stroke has increased 44 percent over the past decade.

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“Traditional risk factors for stroke — such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol — are becoming more common in younger people,” said Bryan J. Eckerle, M.D., stroke neurologist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “This is a result of changes in dietary habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles.”

Providers have responded by catching and treating the risk factors earlier, according to Dr. Eckerle.

Fortunately, most strokes are preventable. Dr. Eckerle suggests steering clear of tobacco products; taking all medications as prescribed; eating a diet rich in lean meats, fruits and vegetables; and exercising several times a week.

If anyone, regardless of age, displays signs of a stroke, it’s important to get medical help quickly.

“Strokes kill millions of brain cells every minute,” Dr. Eckerle said. “The sooner you get treatment, the more likely you are to recover.”

Do you know the signs of a stroke? BE FAST

If you think someone might be having a stroke, remember to BE FAST to get help:

Balance: Is the person having trouble walking? Do they have a loss of balance or coordination or dizziness?

Eyes: Is the person having trouble seeing? Has the person had a change in vision in one or both eyes?

Face: Ask the person to smile. Does the smile look even? Warning sign – One side of the face does not move as well as the other.

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drop down? Warning sign – One arm does not move, or one arm drifts.

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence such as, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Does the person have trouble speaking or seem confused? Warning sign – The person slurs words or cannot speak.

Time: Call 911 immediately; time lost = brain lost. Let emergency responders know the last time you saw the person well. More advanced treatment options may be available if medical care is received within three hours of the start of symptoms.

Another symptom could be a sudden, very severe headache

Remembering these steps could save the life of someone you care about.

Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.

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