Stroke occurrence in a youth is major health problem. Every year, 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke. Nearly six million die and another five million are left permanently disabled. Stroke is the second leading cause of disability, after dementia. More than 83,000 people aged 20 and younger suffer stroke each year. WHO defines stroke as an event caused by the interruption of the blood supply to the brain, usually because a blood vessel bursts or is blocked by a clot. This cuts off the supply of oxygen and nutrients, causing damage to the brain tissue.
Sign & Symptoms:
The most common symptom of a stroke are;
- Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, most often on one side of the body.
- Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Vision problems
- Difficulty walking
- Loss of balance/coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
- Fainting or unconsciousness.
The effects of a stroke depend on which part of the brain is injured and how severely it is affected. A very severe stroke can cause sudden death.
Generally we understand that older people have strokes more often than young people because the stroke risk factors such as narrowing of the arteries increases with age. But you will surprise to know that researchers are still trying to find out how to decrease the risk of stroke in young people. A group that doesn’t typically have the risk factors like an older people.
When the researchers measured levels of fat in the blood of young people, they found that only a low level of HDL cholesterol was strongly associated with stroke risk. The study also confirmed that stroke risk was higher in these young patients if they had evidence of the other established risk factors for stroke, such as smoking and high blood pressure. Men were also more likely to have a stroke than women. Much of the damage from strokes is believed to result from the activation of various enzymes which affect phospholipids and essential fats, which are key components of brain cell membranes and through the generation of oxidants which promote death of brain cells. When considering ways to minimize this damage and recover from a stroke it makes sense to not only improve your intake of phospholipids and essential fats but also provide a means to mop up these damaging oxidants. This is why choline, lecithin, fish oils, B vitamins and antioxidants should form the backbone of any stroke recovery protocol. (1)
A recent study from Pakistan done on 119 young patients of either gender, ≥ 12and ≤ 45 years of age with stroke at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Islamabad. Nearly 1/3rd of strokes in our population are in young. While risk factors in general for stroke stand true for young stroke as well namely hypertension and diabetes, CNS infections are a major cause of young stroke in Pakistan particularly Central nervous system Tuberculosis. Strokes in young comparatively are almost equally divided between ischemia and hemorrhage i.e., 1.4:1. 1/5th of these ischemic strokes are due to cerebral venous thrombosis. (2)
Young stroke survivors are often largely caught off guard by their stroke, either unaware that it is possible to have a stroke at a young age or surprised given to their active and healthy lifestyles. If a young person has symptoms of sudden unsteadiness, dizziness or weakness, it’s almost always considered a less dramatic event than stroke. Many individuals experienced delays in getting a diagnosis. People commonly misdiagnosed with issues ranging from anxiety problems to inner ear ailments. The consequences of misdiagnosis are dire because when having a stroke, every minute counts.
Among individuals who identify themselves through recreational hobbies, it is particularly difficult to come to terms with loss of mobility. When fatigue, memory and concentration get affected, it is important to break tasks into smaller components, set smaller goals and rest frequently. This is frustrating for individuals who were used to multi-tasking (i.e., social and recreational schedules etc.)
Some prevention strategies for stroke at young age include:
1: Stop smoking, drinking and take stress.
2: Work with your doctor to identify underlying diseases.
3: Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.
4: Eat a diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
5: Start controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol at an early age.
The key to managing stroke in young people is to identify and treat their underlying causes. Reducing risk factors is the key to preventing a first stroke or a recurrent stroke.
7.Khan AJ, Shah MA. Young Stroke Clinical aspects, research. J Coll Physicians Surge Pak 2000; 10: 461-2.
Etiology of stroke in young Pakistani adults; results of a single center study by Pakistan Journal of Neurological Sciences (PJNS)