A stroke is the rapid loss of brain function as a result of disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. It is known as ischemic stroke when the cause is blockage in the arteries, or it is called hemorrhagic stroke when a blood vessel leaks or bursts. The latter is less common.
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for strokes. The other major risk factors are diabetes, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, increasing age, heart disease, obesity, and family history of stroke. People aged beyond 55 used to be the likely victims for stroke, but it appears that stroke cases are rising among young and middle-aged adults.
According to a study of stroke rates in a 4-county region of Ohio and Kentucky, 12.9 percent of strokes occurred in adults in the age group between 20 and 55 in 1994 but the figure was increased to 18.6 percent in 2005.
In the paper published online on October 10, 2012 in journal ‘Neurology’, researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio also showed that the average age of people who experienced a stroke fell from 71 in 1994 to 69 in 2005.
Researchers examined data on all stroke patients aged between 20 and 54 seen in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes during 3 separate, yearlong periods: July 1993 through June 1994, 1999, and 2005. They only included patient’s first stroke in the analysis.
It was found that the stroke rate among people aged above 75 declined from 1994 to 2005, which was agreed with other studies. For instance, the Framingham Heart Study reported a decrease in stroke rates between 1950 and 2004.
Such decline is no doubt encouraging but unfortunately, it is counterbalanced by the rising trend of younger strokes. Having stroke at younger ages means a greater loss of productive life years and greater health care expenses over time.
Reasons for the increase were not clear, but several findings revealed during the study period might explain the why. Surveys of people by other institutions in the same region showed an increasing number of people had high cholesterol. Moreover, data from national surveys also indicated an increased rate of diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity over the study period. The increase could also be partly due to better diagnoses of stroke using MRI as a diagnostic tool, according to some experts not involved in the study.