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More young people affected by stroke these days

Wednesday October 10, 2012
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Stroke appears to be affecting people at a younger age, according to new research.

Researchers with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine looked at occurrences of stroke in people between ages 20 and 54 in the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area during three separate, year-long periods: July 1993 to June 1994 and the calendar years 1999 and 2005. Only first-time strokes were included in the analysis.

The average age of people who experienced stroke fell from 71 in 1993-94 to 69 in 2005. In addition, strokes among people younger than 55 made up a greater percentage of all strokes over time, growing from about 13% in 1993-94 to 19% in 2005.

The stroke rate in young people increased in both African Americans and Caucasians: from 83 strokes per 100,000 people in 1993-94 among African-Americans to 128 per 100,000 in 2005; and from 26 strokes per 100,000 people in 1993-94 among Caucasians to 48 per 100,000 in 2005.

"The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol," Brett Kissela, MD, MS, a study author and Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, said in a news release. "Other factors, such as improved diagnosis through the increased use of magnetic resonance imaging, may also be contributing. Regardless, the rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability.

"The good news is that some of the possible contributing factors to these strokes can be modified with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. However, given the increase in stroke among those younger than 55, younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease."

The study appeared Oct. 10 on the website of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study abstract is available at www.neurology.org/content/early/2012/10/10/WNL.0b013e318270401d.abstract.

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