Most Americans think of stroke as a health concern only for older people, but new reports indicate that the serious health threat can also affect many people under the age of 45.
For people aged 65 and older, 30 to 590 out of every 1,000 are at risk for stroke, but a surprising 10 to 15 percent of strokes occur in people age 45 and younger. Even more frightening, because of their young age, many youthful stroke sufferers are misdiagnosed by medical professionals and not properly treated. This puts them at a higher risk for debilitating health effects from suffering a stroke.
Doctors conducting a study at Wayne State University-Detroit Medical Center Stroke Program found that of 57 youthful stroke sufferers, one in seven were misdiagnosed as doctors attributed their symptoms to vertigo, migraine, drunkenness, seizure, inner-ear problems and other unrelated health problems.
“Although young stroke victims benefit the most from early treatment, it must be administered within four and a half hours,” said Dr. Seemant Chaturvedi, a neurologist at Wayne State who directs the program and led the study. “After 48 to 72 hours, there are no major interventions available to improve stroke outcome.”
“Symptoms that appear suddenly, even if they seem trivial, warrant a meticulous work-up,” he said.
The Detroit study showed that young patients, when suffering stroke-like symptoms, were more likely to be correctly diagnosed when they received an MRI and were seen by a neurologist in the emergency room.
Experts say, regardless of age, knowing the symptoms of stroke is key to receiving proper treatment should a stroke occur. Symptoms include:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech.
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination.
- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
“Patients may have to be proactive and insist on a thorough work-up and ask to be seen by a neurologist, and E.R. doctors should consider the possibility of stroke regardless of a patient’s age,” Chaturvedi said.