Stroke at Age 26: One More Reason to Act Fast
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A story this week about 26-year-old twins who had a stroke only a few months apart from each other may seem like an oddity to you. While it's true that stroke is more common in older adults, young people have strokes as well.
Most people don't realize that stroke is the #4 cause of death in the United States. A stroke occurs when a part of the brain is not getting enough oxygen and nutrients. This can be due to a blocked blood vessel supplying the brain. Alternatively, it could be because of bursted blood vessel that results in bleeding in the brain.
For those that survive a stroke, they can be left with major limitations in daily function and quality of life. The American Heart Association estimates that there are 3.8 million women survivors of stroke alive today.
In honor of Stroke Awareness Month in May, let's remember some truths and mistruths about stroke.
Truth #1 - Stroke can happen at any age
The story of the 26-year-old sisters who both had strokes is dramatic, but stroke is not that unusual in young people. The causes of stroke are usually different when they occur in younger compared to older people, but stroke can happen at any age. One of the twins apparently had atrial fibrillation, which is a big risk factor for stroke.
Truth #2 - You can reduce the risk of having a stroke
Overall, the most common risk factors for having a stroke are listed below. Many of these are factors that you have the power to change.
But in younger adults, and women in particular, stroke may also be due to other risk factors, such as:
- Use of oral contraceptives (i.e., birth control pills)
- A tear in a blood vessel in the neck (also known as a 'dissection')
- Inflammation in the blood vessels to the brain (also known as 'vasculitis')
Truth #3 - Faster recognition = faster treatment = better outcomes
In stroke care, as with many other cardiovascular diseases, the faster the stroke is recognized and the faster treatment is started, the better the outcomes. Remember F.A.S.T to recognize a stroke and to know how to act fast.
F -- Face drooping or face numbness. If your smile is not equal on both sides of your face or if one side of your face only is numb or droopy, that can be a sign of a stroke.
A -- Arm or leg weakness. Loss of strength in one arm or one leg may mean a stroke.
S -- Speech problems. If the speech center in the brain is affected by a stroke, you can have trouble speaking, finding the right words, or may even speak gibberish.
T -- Time is of the essence. Call 9-1-1. Although people think they can just get in the car and drive to the hospital, an ambulance can get someone to the hospital and to life-saving treatments much faster.
Truth #4 - More women than men have strokes
This really is true. Partly because women are living longer, the rate of stroke in women is high than the rate of stroke in men.
Ladies, it may be the last day of stroke awareness month, but that doesn't mean we can't be aware of stroke and prevent it from happening all year long.
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