Stroke happens at any age, yet many young people do not think a stroke could happen to them. In fact, about one in seven strokes occur in adolescents and young adults, ages 15 to 49.
Younger people may not recognize the symptoms, and there may be delay in diagnosis at the hospital because stroke is typically thought of as a condition that happens to older people.
“Knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke - at any age - can help with earlier recognition, diagnosis and emergency treatment, and in turn, prevent long-term disability,” according to Renae Patrick, APNP, a nurse practitioner with Agnesian HealthCare’s Neurology department.
Risk factors for young adults can include physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, ilicit drug use and oral contraceptive pills. Typical risk factors can include hypertension, diabetes, sleep apnea, hyperlipidemia, atrial fibrillation or a clotting disorder.
Certain groups of people are more likely to have a stroke at younger ages:
- Women. Some birth control pills can raise your risk for stroke, especially if you are older than 35 and you smoke. Complications during pregnancy from obesity or high blood pressure also can raise your risk.
- Minorities. African-American men and women younger than 45 have almost twice the risk for stroke compared with white men and women in that age group. African-Americans are also more likely to die from stroke than whites. Hispanics also have strokes at younger ages than whites. The increased risk for stroke among African-Americans and Hispanics may be due in part to higher rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
Stroke signs and symptoms include sudden numbness - especially on one side of the body - confusion, trouble seeing or walking, and severe headache. Below is an acronym to remember to help identify a possible stroke and take action.
F - Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A - Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S - Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
T - Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Other stroke symptoms can include: sudden severe headache, confusion or vision disturbance, weakness or tingling on one side of the body or dizziness with vomiting. These symptoms are of sudden onset.
“Stroke is not only preventable, but treatable,” Patrick says. “Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and getting to the nearest emergency department - preferably by ambulance can give someone the best chance at accessing treatments, such as IV tPA or other advanced therapies like intra-arterial tPA or clot retrieval.”
St. Agnes Hospital has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The award recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments with the goal of reducing death and disability for stroke patients.
“St. Agnes Hospital is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients,” according to Nicki Gritt Franzen, RN, Agnesian HealthCare stroke coordinator & case manager. “The tools and resources provided help us track and measure our success while improving patient outcomes.”
St. Agnes Hospital additionally received the American Heart Association’s Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Award. To qualify for this recognition, hospitals must meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke.