By Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Stroke has traditionally been thought to strike older individuals. But now a new study in the Lancet medical journal shows a growing number of young and middle-aged adults being affected by it.

Researchers from around the globe analyzed data from 1990 to 2012, specifically looking at new cases of stroke, its prevalence, and deaths.

(Photo: BIDMC)

(Photo: BIDMC)

What they found is that over the past 20 years, strokes have increased 25% in people ages 20 to 64. In addition, 83,000 people affected by stroke each year were 20 years old and younger.

Zeroing in on the numbers further, the study shows that people ages seventy-four years old and younger make up 62% of stroke deaths, and 72% of stroke related illnesses and disability.

Startling as these numbers may sound, Dr. Magdy Selim, neurologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says they are not surprising. “This study confirms what other studies in the US have shown,” he says. “The rates of stroke in relatively young people across the US have risen over the past 10-20 years. This study shows that this is also the case all around the world at a global level. “

Dr. Selim explains there are many factors behind the increase. “To name a few: better diagnosis of stroke in several parts of the world; increased prevalence of obesity, increased use of recreational drugs, and increased social stressors,” he says.

If the current trend continues, researchers expect the amount of disability, illness and premature death caused by strokes to double worldwide by 2030.

So are there steps younger adults can take to prevent stroke before it strikes?

“Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key,” says Dr. Selim. “This includes eating well, regular exercise, and avoiding smoking and illegal drug use,” he says.

He also urges people of all ages to be aware of important risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol and make sure they are being treated appropriately.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted November 2013


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