March 25, 2009

Anyone, even a child, can get a stroke

Most people associate stroke with the elderly, but one-third of the some 780,000 U.S. stroke victims each year are under age 65, researchers say.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles is offering a special support group for younger survivors of strokes -- brain attacks when an area of the brain is deprived of oxygen after an artery becomes blocked or ruptured. Even teens, children and infants can suffer strokes.

Terri Lukomski, the support group's facilitator and a certified therapeutic recreation specialist, says young people may be more likely than older people to disregard the symptoms of a stroke or of a transient ischemic attack -- a small stroke with only temporary symptoms. But a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack -- whether acknowledged or not -- greatly increases stroke risk.

Lukomski and colleagues at another local hospital asked former patients under age 55 to complete quality of life questionnaires. About half indicated they were unable to return to work. More than 70 percent said they experience depression, anxiety or fluctuating moods.

A stroke affects work, leisure activities, and relationships, Lukomski says in a statement. All stroke survivors need ongoing help to continue to heal and progress toward their personal goals of normalcy but young stroke survivors may need additional assistance with parenting, dating, developing careers, attending school, engaging in higher risk or active leisure interests, and using computers and other technology.