Stroke is something that affects many of us, whether it’s happened to us personally or to someone we love, but oftentimes, the perception is that strokes can only happen to older people. That assumption is wrong.
Every year, about 795,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States, according to the Sanford Stroke Center, and while the majority of those people are over the age of 65, doctors say they've seen an uptick in the number of stroke cases in younger people.
Up to 10% of stroke victims in the U.S. are younger than 45, the Stroke Center reports.
“Most people think about stroke as a disease of older people,” Dr. Neil Schwartz, a stroke and vascular neurologist, said. “It is true that stroke becomes more common as people age, but stroke can occur at any age.”
Schwartz, who works at the Stanford Stroke Center, said the symptoms don’t vary much from younger to older patients.
Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cigarette smoking are risks that can lead to atherosclerosis — a cholesterol-laden plaque that interferes with blood flow and hardens the arteries — which often causes stroke in older people, according to the Stroke Center. It should be noted that certain heart and blood conditions can also be factors.
When it comes to the younger age group, despite how healthy you might be, genetics can play a big part in your risk factors, along with inflammatory conditions, infections and drugs.
But there are still ways you can be proactive in stroke prevention.