May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and data shows more young people are having strokes.
“No age group is immune to having strokes. Stroke could happen to any age group, and we're surprisingly seeing a significant rise in strokes in young adults," Dr. Abbas Kharal, a Neurologist with Cleveland Clinic, said.
He said a stroke happens when there's an issue with blood flow to part of the brain, whether that's because of a lack of blood supply, or bleeding in the brain.
Dr. Kharal said to remember the acronym "FAST" to recognize some of the symptoms:
- F: face drooping
- A: arm weakness
- S: speech difficulty
- T: time to call 911
It's important to call for help immediately because strokes can cause permanent brain damage or and even death if treatment is delayed.
Dr. Kharal said younger people who have stroke symptoms sometimes put off getting help because they think it's something less serious.
As for why more younger people are having strokes, he said lifestyle choices may be one of the reasons.
“Particularly in younger adults, we're seeing a significant rise in premature atherosclerosis, which is hardening and blockages in blood vessels. That is specifically believed to be due to a rise in the vascular risk factors of stroke that are occurring in more and more younger patients. We're seeing the incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, things like that, that were initially attributed to a much older age population that are occurring now in much younger patients in their late 20s into their early 30s," Dr. Kharal said.
There are several other factors that can lead to stroke, including clotting disorders, structural heart disease, blood vessel abnormalities, and recreational drug use. Dr. Kharal says living a healthy lifestyle and keeping up with annual doctor visits can reduce your risk of having a stroke.