Stroke in Young Adults: Preventing a Major Crisis Among the Youth of Today

Stroke in young, otherwise known as young stroke, is a major public health issue affecting several youngsters as well as a small number of adults who fall under the 45 year mark. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a stroke is one of the most common neurological conditions that causes long-term disabilities coupled with a large number of emotional and socioeconomic consequences. It also causes severe distress to the patients, their families and health service providers.

Studies have shown that it is the second most common cause of death, affecting one individual every 5 seconds. A research conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) shows that about 10% to 15% of strokes occurring in young adult patients result in nearly one-fifth of them being admitted to hospitals. Although, this disease is found to be less common, it proves to be devastating in terms of productive years lost and the impact it can have on a young person’s life.

Young Stroke Vs Elderly Stroke: The difference

Majority of strokes are caused due to two types of hemorrhages. The first being subarachnoid hemorrhage which happens when bleeding occurs in an area between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater surrounding the brain. The second type is due to intracranial hemorrhage i.e. when a blood vessel within the skull ruptures or leaks. These two causes are found to be more predominant among young adults (40–55%) when compared to the general stroke population (15–20%). However, the most common type of stroke affecting the majority of today’s population is a cerebral infarction i.e. a type of ischemic stroke caused by a blockage in the blood vessels that supply blood to the brain.

Here is a list of risk factors for stroke in descending order:

  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Increased BMI
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidaemia
  • Past H/o stroke
  • Rheumatic heart disease with atrial fibrillation
  • Oral contraceptive pills( 2-5 fold increased risk for women)

Identifying the symptoms of young stroke

A young stroke can also be defined as FAST which stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time. This acronym is used as a mnemonic to help detect and improve the responsiveness of a patient’s needs. Some of the symptoms of young stroke include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or trouble understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, and loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

India and young stroke: The statistics
In 2005, according to the ICMR, 5.8 million people were affected by this disease, making it the second most common cause of death. It is interesting to note that 40% percent of stroke deaths were found to occur in people below 70 years of age. Globally, approximately 15 million new acute stroke accidents occur every year, while approximately 55 million people have experienced a stroke some time in their past. Two thirds of these individuals live in low and middle-income countries such as India. By 2050, it is anticipated that 80% of stroke events will occur in people living in these regions.

How to prevent a stroke

Dr. Prithvi Giri, Consultant, Neurology at Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, Jaipur shares a few tips on how one can keep stroke at bay. Patients are advised to stop smoking, exercise regularly (20 minutes a day, three-to-four times per week) or go for a long stroll. This can help them lose weight, relieve stress and feel fit. Also, it’s best if youngsters are cautious about an increase in their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars. If they have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to get a doctor’s diagnosis and advice on the same.

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