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Why Stroke Rates Are Increasing in Younger People

Posted Feb 10 2011 3:21pm

Researchers have shown that rates of hospitalization for ischemic strokes in young people, even in children and teens, is rising. The largest jump was a 51% increase in male ages 15 to 34. Rising rates were also seen in male ages 5 to 14 (36%), female ages 5 to 14 (31%), and female ages 15 to 34 (17%). Stroke rates actually decreased in people above 45 by 25 to 29%.

The study authors don’t give convincing explanations for the increase, but do speculate that it could be from increased awareness and earlier diagnosis, better imaging technology, and rising obesity rates. But one clear and documented condition that’s not mentioned is that untreated obstructive sleep apnea can significantly increase your risk of stroke. It’s been shown to be an independent risk factor for stroke, increasing your odds by 2-3 times normal.

Just this morning, I had a patient tell me that his wife had a stroke in her early 40s. Not too surprisingly, she snores heavily. No one ever suspected diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea.

Untreated sleep apnea can significantly increase your chances of having a stroke through various different mechanisms. One way is through creating a hyper-coagulable state—blood tends to be thicker, and when stagnant, it can clot more easily. Various inflammatory factors are elevated in sleep apnea, again making you more likely to clot a blood vessel in your brain. Chronic hypoxia can also create oxidative stress, massive inflammation and clotting of smaller brain vessels.

I predict this problem will only get worse over the next few decades. Knowing what we know, it’s shocking how little we in the medical profession do to prevent this problem from happening.

Do you personally know a young person that has suffered a stroke? Does that person snore?

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