Even Young & Healthy Are at Risk for a Stroke

"Mini Strokes" - in 20s and 30s

We all think it. We all wish it to be true when it comes to our health. The words, "I'm young and healthy," and "I eat fairly well and exercise" give us an air of invincibility. Coupled, of course, with the fact that many people feel that if you don't think about it and avoid it – that it won't happen to them. "I'm still young, I'll worry about it when I get older," has played in almost everyone's mind when thinking about health risks – especially when you think about stroke.

Stroke is not just a disease for the people more "experienced" in life. While stroke risk does indeed go up as people get older, stroke risk has increased in the younger population. Many doctors say the obesity epidemic is to blame for an increase in heart disease and stroke among people as young as those in their 20s and 30s.

"Mini Strokes" - in 40s and 50s

Middle-aged working moms and women also need to be aware and are often the first ones to describe themselves as seemingly young and healthy. The likelihood of stroke increases with age, doubling for every decade after age 55, one-third of strokes occur in people younger than 65, with particular risk in young and middle aged women. In fact, women 45 to 54 years of age are more than twice as likely as men to have a stroke. Women in the 45 to 54 year age group have a more than four-fold higher likelihood of having had a stroke than women just a decade behind them.

"Mini Strokes" - a Transient Ischemic Attack

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), often described as a "mini-stroke," occurs in a person who has stroke-like symptoms for up to one to two hours because of a temporary disturbance of blood supply to an area of the brain. A TIA occurs when blood flow to part of the brain is blocked or reduced, often by a blood clot. After a short time, blood flows again and the symptoms go away. With a stroke, the blood flow stays blocked, and the brain has permanent damage.

By definition, a TIA resolves within 24 hours, but most TIA symptoms resolve within a few minutes. In reality, this "mini-stroke" is a true stroke that has resolved or has improved functionality in the affected body part. TIAs are often warning signs of a future stroke if nothing is done to prevent it. The risk of a stroke increases dramatically in the days after a transient ischemic attack, and the TIA may offer an opportunity to find a cause or minimize the risk to prevent the permanent neurologic damage that results because of a stroke.

We all saw this when a seemingly young and healthy CBS Los Angeles reporter was out covering the Grammys. As Serene Branson delivered a live report from the red carpet her speech suddenly became slurred and incomprehensible. She appeared increasingly worried and aware that something was wrong while she was on the air.

Many people who experience a TIA understand that something is wrong, even though they can't articulate it. In fact one of the symptoms of stroke is aphasia – altered speech.

Other Symptoms Include:

  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

Stroke is a Medical Emergency

If you think you or someone else is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately and note the time of when any of the symptoms first appear. Do not drive yourself or wait for a ride from a friend or family member. Have an ambulance take you to the hospital that is a stroke receiving center right away.

Designated Stroke Receiving Centers