While very few young adults suffer strokes, the rate of stroke has been rising among young men and women.
ABOUT 795,000 PEOPLE have a stroke each year in the United States, a number influenced by numerous factors, including age, gender and health habits. Women are more likely to have a stroke than men—55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year. A woman’s lifetime risk of having a stroke is one in five, compared to one in six for men.
Great strides have been made against stroke, especially for older people. In 2011, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that stroke is becoming more common in younger adults. Between 1994 and 2007, stroke rates increased by:
51 percent in men age 15–34
47 percent in men 35–44
17 percent in women ages15–34
36 percent in women age 35–44
WHY ARE STROKE RATES RISING AT YOUNGER AGES?
The increase may be because more young people than ever have high blood pressure, high body mass index and other stroke risk factors. Messages about preventing stroke may not be reaching younger people because they do not believe themselves to be at risk.
Younger women have additional risk factors for stroke:
Pregnancy-related hypertension increases stroke risk.
Contraceptive use may contribute to strokes in women who smoke or have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or obesity.
Some researchers associate strokes with migraines, which affect more women than men.
WOMEN MAY HAVE DIFFERENT SYMPTOMS
Strokes, like heart attacks, display different symptoms in men and women. Both men and women may experience:
drooping or numbness on one side of the face
inability to hold an arm up level without it drifting down
loss of balance
Women may also experience:
chest pain, shortness of breath or racing heart
exhaustion or sudden sleepiness
sudden pain in the arm, face or leg
Experts say as many as 80 percent of strokes could be prevented. That’s because so many risk factors—such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity—can be modified by changing behavior. Just as older people have been successful in recent years at reducing their risk of stroke, young people can make lifestyle changes to keep themselves out of the emergency room.