Stroke in young adults


Roundup: These ‘Nontraditional’ Risk Factors May Be Fueling Rise in Strokes Among Young Adults; and More News

Migraines, Other ‘Nontraditional’ Risk Factors May Be the Cause of Strokes in Young Adults

Common risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, alcohol misuse and heart disease.  But for adults under 35 who suffer a stroke, “migraine headaches and other nontraditional risk factors may be more likely to blame,” states the American Heart Association (AHA) referring to a new study.

According to the findings, published in the AHA journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, researchers found that strokes among adults aged 18 to 44  were strongly associated with “nontraditional risk factors” including migraines, blood clotting disorders, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

Among people under 35, nontraditional risk factors were linked to 43 percent of strokes in women and 31 percent in men. Migraines topped the list, representing nearly 35 percent of strokes in women and 20 percent in men.

For the study, researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora analyzed data in health insurance claims for more than 2,600 people in Colorado who had strokes and more than 7,800 people who did not have strokes. Their goal was to determine  which risk factors were most strongly associated with strokes.

"There have been many studies demonstrating the association between migraines and strokes, but to our knowledge, this study may be the first to demonstrate just how much stroke risk may be attributable to migraines," said lead study author Michelle Leppert, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, in a news release.

Stroke rates among U.S. adults under the age of 45 have increased by more than 40 percent since the 1990s, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Overall, one in four of individuals worldwide will have a stroke in their lifetime. Stroke is the No. 5 leading cause of death in the U.S. Certain factors can increase your chances of having a stroke, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and a family history. And the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from a stroke is to understand your risks and how to control them.

Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. It accounts for nearly 90 of all strokes. At least 10 percent of strokes are much deadlier -- hemorrhagic strokes. 

"The younger they are at the time of stroke, the more likely their stroke is due to a nontraditional risk factor," added Dr. Leppert, in her statement. "We need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of these nontraditional risk factors to develop targeted interventions."

Is Accelerated ‘Biological Aging’ Responsible for Early-Onset Cancers in Those Under 55?

Biological age – which is influenced by diet, physical activity, mental health and other factors -- may contribute to the development of early-onset cancers, often defined as cancers diagnosed in adults younger than 55 years, according to research presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2024 this month.

In contrast to chronological age, which measures how long a person has been alive, biological age refers to the “condition of a person’s body and physiological processes and is considered modifiable,” reads a news release from researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“Multiple cancer types are becoming increasingly common among younger adults in the United States and globally,” said researcher Ruiyi Tian, MPH, a graduate student in the lab of Yin Cao, ScD, MPH at Washington University School of Medicine. “Understanding the factors driving this increase will be key to improve the prevention or early detection of cancers in younger and future generations.”

The researchers examined data on 148,724 individuals who part of the U.K. Biobank database. They calculated each participant’s biological age using nine biomarkers found in blood. Individuals whose biological age was higher than their chronological age were defined as having accelerated aging. They concluded that those born in or after 1965 had a 17 percent higher likelihood of accelerated aging than those born between 1950 and 1954.

“They found that each standard deviation increase in accelerated aging was associated with a 42% increased risk of early-onset lung cancer, a 22% increased risk of early-onset gastrointestinal cancer, and a 36% increased risk of early-onset uterine cancer,” states the news release.

Further studies will attempt to determine the “mechanisms driving accelerated aging and early-onset cancers to develop precision cancer prevention strategies,” the researchers stated.

Short-Term incentives to Exercise can Lead to Sustained increases in Daily Steps, NIH-Funded Study Finds

Some people with heart disease risk factors can benefit from incentives to be more active – and the result can be adding at least 1,500 daily steps to exercise routines, according to findings from a new study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Researchers said that the improvements in daily steps, which also resulted in an extra 40 minutes of moderate exercise each week, were associated with a 6 percent reduced risk of premature death and a 10 percent reduced risk of cardiovascular-related deaths, compared to data from prior studies, according to a news release from the NIH.  

Researchers found that while a simple daily reminder was effective in helping people move more, offering financial incentives or point-based rewards, such as in a game, was even more effective,” the NIH states.

The study was conducted between 2019 and 2024. Researchers followed more than 1,000 adults at elevated risk for major cardiovascular events. All participants received a wearable fitness tracker, which enabled researchers to count their baseline daily step count.

Compared to the control group, the game-incentive group walked an extra 538 steps from their baseline amount, while those who received financial incentives walked an extra 492. The group who received both incentives averaged 868 extra steps, and maintained an average 576 more daily steps six months later. 

In the financial incentives group, each participant received $14 each week, but lost $2 a day if they did not meet their step goals.

“Even moderate exercise can drastically reduce cardiovascular risk, so finding low-cost ways to get people moving and stay in a fitness program that they can do at home is a huge win for public health,” said Alison Brown, Ph.D., R.D., a program officer at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, in a prepared statement.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that most adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two – combined with twice-weekly strength-building sessions.

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