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Janet Taylor, MD Stroke Risk Prevention
1 in 5 strokes occur to people between the ages of 20-55. Early strokes increase the risk of premature death. Prevention includes the management of blood pressure, keeping cholesterol low, stopping smoking and obesity.
Most people (including a lot of doctors) think of a stroke as something that happens to old people. But the rate is increasing among those in their 50s, 40s and even younger.
In one recent 10-year period, the rate of strokes in Americans younger than 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in 5 strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old — up from 1 in 8 in the mid-1990s.
These are people like Melissa McCann, a nurse in Maine who spends most days on a helicopter, accompanying sick and injured patients to a distant hospital.
McCann had a stroke at age 37. It began with a weird sensation.
“I had a very euphoric feeling,” she tells Shots. “It’s hard to explain, but everything felt very cartoon-ish to me. It felt very bizarre.”
Then she found she couldn’t dial the number to respond to a page. Light began to hurt her eyes. She couldn’t speak. Because she’s a nurse, she realized she was having a stroke.
“It was very scary, really,” McCann says, “because I know what could possibly happen.” She could die, as her father-in-law did, or be permanently disabled.
New data show that younger stroke survivors are at great risk of premature death. Within two decades, 1 in 5 stroke survivors will die, according to a study in the March 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The death rate is even higher among those with the most common kind of stroke, caused by a blood clot in the brain.
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