While the stroke rate continues to slide in people 55 and older, the opposite is occurring among younger adults starting in their mid-to-late 30s, according to new research.
Actor Luke Perry, who is 52, died Monday, four days after suffering a “massive stroke” and taken to a Los Angeles hospital, his spokesperson stated. Mr. Perry’s sudden death comes as the stroke rate among adults younger than 55 is inexplicably on the rise.
The new data is worrisome to the medical community and physician peer groups, which have strongly promoted the treatment and prevention of stroke’s underlying risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Unfortunately, many younger adults don’t seem to be heeding the warnings associated with strokes, which represent the 5th leading cause of death in the United States.
Video by Alcyene C. de Almeida Rodrigues
An ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for nearly 90 percent of all stroke cases and can potentially be treated with tPA, the clot-busting drug, if treated promptly. Far fewer strokes are hemorrhagic, caused when a weakened blood vessel ruptures. Delays in treating strokes can lead to death or severe debilitation.
“There are reports that people 35 to 55 are having more strokes and it’s unclear exactly why that is,” says Felipe De Los Rios, M.D. , Medical Director, Stroke Program at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center . “But what we do know is that diseases we normally see in older people are happening at younger ages. We see more obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.”
Studies have confirmed that lifestyle habits of adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s, including smoking, poor nutrition and alcohol consumption, will have a major impact on their health when they reach their 60s and beyond, says Dr. Rios.
The latest report on strokes and young people was published by the American Heart Association . The study examined a unique database that includes almost all hospitalizations for heart disease and stroke in New Jersey.
Between 1995-1999 and 2010-2014, researchers found the rate of strokes:
- more than doubled (a 2.47-fold increase) in people 35 to 39 years old;
- doubled in people aged 40 to 44;
- increased to a lesser extent in people 45 to 54 years old;
- declined in older age groups; and
- was in sharp contrast to heart attack rates, which decreased in all age groups.
Overall, stroke rates have been declining for decades, an improvement the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has attributed to reductions in smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. But the New Jersey study is the latest one to raise concerns that younger generations may lead the beginning of a trend reversal. The growing obesity rate is one example cited by researchers as a factor. Moreover, diabetes has been on an upswing over the last 40 years. And while the overall smoking rate has decline considerably since the 1960s, the nicotine habit is higher among younger adults.
“We see more obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Dr. Rios. “Part of the problem is that younger people tend not to go to the doctor because they are feeling well.”
Watch the video now as Dr. Rios provides more details on this troubling trend of increasing stroke rates in younger adults.