Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A scary reality, especially for those of us with aging parents, is the possibility of stroke and its debilitating effects.
When a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks, a stroke or “brain attack” can occur as the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted. With either of these situations, brain cells will begin to die and brain damage occurs.
Many health experts have recognized the need to address a potential stroke as quickly as possible. The acronym F.A.S.T. was developed to help combat the long-term effects of a stroke. F.A.S.T. stands for the four actions you should perform on a loved one you believe is having a stroke.
• FACE: Ask your loved one to smile. Does one side of his or her face droop?
• ARMS: Ask your loved one to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
• SPEECH: Ask your loved one to repeat a simple phrase. Does his or her speech sound slurred or strange?
• TIME: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911.
Time really is of the essence. This is because when brain cells die during a stroke, the functions controlled by that area of the brain are lost. With just a few lost minutes, a stroke victim can lose speech, movement and/or memory. While some people have had complete recoveries after their stroke, it is estimated that a full 2/3 of survivors will have some type of lasting disability.
Our aging parents aren´t the only ones we should be keeping an eye on, however. Another target demographic has been recognized in a new study. To get a good idea of who is in this new group, all many of us need do is look in a mirror.
Published Wednesday in the online issue of Neurology, new research has shown that stroke may be affecting people at a younger age.
“The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol,” said study author Brett Kissela, MD, MS, with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Other factors, such as improved diagnosis through the increased use of MRI imaging may also be contributing. Regardless, the rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability.”
The study, conducted over 3 distinct one year-long periods, paid special attention to the occurrence of strokes in people aged 20-54. They also only included in the study persons experiencing their first ever stroke.
In the twelve years that spanned the entirety of the study, researchers found the average age of someone who experienced stroke fell from 71, in 1994, to 69 years of age in 2005. Additionally, they found that strokes among people under age 55 made up a greater percentage of all strokes over time, growing from an estimated 13 percent in the 1993-94 study up to 19 percent in 2005. This increase was seen in both Caucasian and African-American populations.
“The good news is that some of the possible contributing factors to these strokes can be modified with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise,” said Kissela. “However, given the increase in stroke among those younger than 55, younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease.”
If we are to look for a silver lining for this study, it is that we know that over the same time as the observations were made (1993-2005), the mortality rate associated with stroke actually declined 30 percent.
Responsible as the third leading cause of death in the United States, strokes kill more than 140,000 people each year and it is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S. It is estimated that every 40 seconds someone suffers a stroke. Smokers and persons with high blood pressure are at a significantly higher risk for stroke.