Strokes rising in younger people

Local News

A growing number of people in their 20’s and 30’s are having strokes. Medical experts say what you are doing every day could be contributing to that,

Matthew Dean didn’t think he’d ever be the one riding in an ambulance. A firefighter and a runner, he doesn’t drink. He doesn’t smoke. He was at work when he got the first sign.

“I took my jacket off and that’s when realized my right arm wasn’t moving. It was completely dead. I couldn’t move it or anything,” Matthew says.

He couldn’t speak and soon realized he was having a stroke, at 37 years old.

Dr. Rehan Sajjad, a neurologist says Matthew’s story is part of an increasing trend.

“Almost 20 percent of the strokes nowadays happening today are less than 65 years of age,” he explains.

A 2017 study found a 42 percent increase among men and a 30 percent increase among women ages 35 to 44 in stroke hospitalizations.  

“We used to see diabetes and hypertension kinda spike, around usually,  age 50 is when they started to go up,  and now we’re seeing it down into the 30s and even into the 20s,” says Dr. Regina Vidaver, Chief  of Chronic Disease Prevention and Cancer Control,

Experts are split on what’s  causing the increases. Some studies point to  IV drug use, migraine headaches, smoking, even the use of birth control , but most seem to agree that a person’s lifestyle and rising obesity rates are a big risk factor.

However, they don’t completely explain Matthew’s stroke.

Dr. Sajjad says, “the only risk factor we found in Matthew’s case was slightly high cholesterol. There are some rare conditions, which definitely we didn’t find any  when we worked up on Matthew. He didn’t  have any other congenital or genetic factors that caused him to have a stroke. His heart workup was normal.”

So what should younger people do to protect themselves from stroke? Cut down on drive-thru meals and instead, balance your diet, get regular exercise, and start asking in your 20’s and 30’s about tests for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

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