Do you think that you are too young to have a stroke? I hate to break it to you but the incidence of stroke in younger people is rising, particularly for women. Australia statistics released in 2017 show that strokes in young women between 35 and 45 have risen by 16 per cent and by 12 per cent in women aged 45–65 years. However the vast majority of strokes still occur in people over age 65. The risk is 30 to 50 per 1,000 in this age group.
Yet, I say again more young people in Australia are having strokes. 10 percent to 15 percent of all strokes affect people aged 45 and younger. And in some ways strokes are more dangerous to young people. Why do I say this? Because young people often don’t recognise the symptoms of a stroke and don’t get help. To minimise the impact of a stroke you need medical attention within the first four to five hours.
How much do you know about strokes?
A stroke interrupts blood flow to the brain. Blood is carried to the brain by blood vessels called arteries. Blood contains oxygen and important nutrients for your brain cells. Blood may be interrupted or stop moving through an artery, because the artery is blocked (ischaemic stroke) or bursts (haemorrhagic stroke). When brain cells do not get enough oxygen or nutrients, they die. The area of brain damage is called a cerebral infarct.
Symptoms of a stroke
Strokes can happen gradually, but you're likely to have one or more sudden symptoms including:
- Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
- Confusion or trouble understanding other people
- Difficulty speaking
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Problems walking or staying balanced or coordinated
- Severe headache that comes on for no reason
If you have these symptoms, do not hesitate, seek medical advice.
The Australian Stroke Foundation recommends the F.A.S.T. test as a way to remember the most common signs of stroke in others.
Face: Check their face. Has the mouth dropped?
Arms: Can they lift both arms?
Speech: Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time: This is a critical situation. If you see any signs call 000 straight away.
Strokes can be fatal, but the sooner you get help the better chance you have of recovering.
Statistics on strokes
Australians will suffer more than half a million strokes in the next ten years. One in three people die within a year of having a stroke. Strokes kill more women than breast cancer. Almost one in five people who experience a stroke are under the age of 55. Men are more likely to suffer a stroke and at a younger age. In 2013, Australians suffered around 50,000 new and recurrent strokes – that’s one stroke every 10 minutes. Stroke are Australia’s second biggest killer after heart disease.
Sometimes not even the experts recognise a stroke
A US study by doctors at the Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center Stroke Program found that among 57 young stroke victims, one in seven were given a misdiagnosis of vertigo, migraine, alcohol intoxication, seizure, inner ear disorder or other problems and sent home without proper treatment.
“Although young stroke victims benefit the most from early treatment, it must be administered within four and a half hours,” said Dr Seemant Chaturvedi, a neurologist at Wayne State who directs the program and led the study. “After 48 to 72 hours, there are no major interventions available to improve stroke outcome. Symptoms that appear suddenly, even if they seem trivial, warrant a meticulous investigation.”
Another US study, this one based in Detroit showed that patients seen by a neurologist in the emergency room, as well as those who were given an MRI scan (magnet resonance imaging scan) were less likely to receive a misdiagnosis.
If you think you could be suffering a stroke TELL the doctor or nurse treating you. During a medical emergency you are allowed to be honest – polite – but honest.
Dr Chaturvedi says younger patients are no better today at recognising the symptoms of stroke than they were 50 years ago.
“Only 20 to 30 percent of US patients get to the emergency room within three hours of symptom onset,” Dr. Chaturvedi said. “They tend to wait to see if the symptoms will go away spontaneously, and they show up in the E.R. 12 to 24 hours later.”
But a majority of strokes that affect young adults result from clots precipitated by the usual cardiac risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Abuse of alcohol and drugs are also contributing factors; among women, use of birth control pills can raise the risk of stroke. People prone to migraines also have a somewhat higher risk of stroke.
Unlike a heart attack, most strokes are painless. Even if the initial symptoms go away they must be taken seriously.
“A CT scan doesn’t show strokes very well in the first 24 hours,” Dr Chaturvedi said. He recommended that if the diagnosis is uncertain, an MRI should be done and a neurologist consulted in the emergency room.
“Patients may have to be proactive and insist on a thorough check-up and emergency doctors should consider the possibility of stroke regardless of a patient’s age.”
So what can you do to reduce your chances of having a stroke?
1. Lower blood pressure
High blood pressure is a huge factor, doubling or even quadrupling your stroke risk if it is not controlled. Maintain a blood pressure of less than 135/85. You can do this by reducing salt in your diet and avoiding high-cholesterol foods.
2. Lose weight
Obesity, as well as the complications linked to it (including high blood pressure and diabetes), raises your odds of having a stroke. If you're overweight, losing a little weight can reduce your risk of stroke. Eat no more than 1,500 to 2,000 calories a day.
3. Exercise more
Exercise contributes to losing weight and lowering blood pressure, but it also stands on its own as an independent stroke reducer. Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week. Go on a walk, take the stairs, join a gym!
4. Cut down on alcohol
Drinking less may decrease your risk of stroke. Have no more than one glass of alcohol a day.
5. Treat atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. If you have symptoms such as heart palpitations or shortness of breath, see your doctor. You may need to take an anticoagulant drug (blood thinner).
6. Treat diabetes
Having high blood sugar damages blood vessels over time, making clots more likely to form inside them. Keep your blood sugar under control. Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your doctor. Use diet, exercise, and medicines to keep your blood sugar within the recommended range.
7. Quit smoking
Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque build-up in the arteries.
Anyone at any age can have a stroke. Know what the symptoms are and get help if you believe you or anyone around you is having a stroke. Never be afraid to act, complacency can kill.
The Proven System To Unlimited Wealth and Prosperity
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.