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Think you're too young to have a stroke?

Actor Luke Perry's death from a massive stroke at age 52 is a reminder that stroke can affect people of any age. Although your risk of stroke increases as you get older – the majority of strokes happen to people over age 65 – stroke rates have been rising in the United States among younger people. 

The number of people hospitalized for stroke between the ages of 15 and 44 has risen significantly in recent years, even as rates of hospitalization for stroke decreased among older adults. This increase points to the need for younger people to control stroke risk factors such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

It also highlights the importance of knowing the symptoms of a stroke and seeking prompt care. Rapid treatment following a stroke improves your chances of survival and reduces the possibility of permanent disability.

Lower Your Stroke Risk

High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for stroke. Other risk factors include obesity, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and other cardiovascular disease.

The best way to reduce your chances of having a stroke is to make the same healthy lifestyle choices that help prevent all other types of cardiovascular disease. This includes:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes or prediabetes
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Choose foods low in sodium and saturated fat
  • Participate in regular physical activity
  • Don't smoke

Know the Signs of Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply is blocked to a part of the brain (ischemic stroke) or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke). Ischemic strokes account for nearly 90% of all strokes. About 15% of ischemic strokes occur in adolescents and young adults, according to a 2017 report by the American Academy of Neurology. Even children can have strokes.  

Stroke symptoms come on quickly and, according to the American Stroke Association, often include:

  • Confusion
  • Vision and speech problems
  • Numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination
  • A sudden, severe headache with no known cause

If you observe any of these signs in a person, no matter what their age, call 911. 

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Date Last Reviewed: March 5, 2019
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD
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