(RxWiki News) As people live longer, the average age of the population may be increasing, but stroke still appears to be affecting individuals at a younger age.
Patients are now experiencing first ever strokes an average of two full years earlier, new research suggests.
"Talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes that can lower heart disease risk."
Brett Kissela, MD, MS, the study's lead author from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, blamed the trend on an increase in risk factors including diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Dr. Kissela said an increased use of MRI and improved diagnosis also could push the age lower.
"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," he said.
During the study investigators followed individuals between the ages of 20 and 54 who experienced their first stroke in regions of Ohio and Kentucky. The study period included three one year terms from July 1993 to June 1994, and calendar years 1999 and 2005.
Researchers found that the average age of a first stroke dropped from age 71 in 1993 to 69 in 2005. They also observed that individuals under the age of 55 made up a larger percentage of those affected by stroke during the study period.
In 1993, 13 percent of first-time stroke patients were under age 55 compared to 19 percent in 2005.
Among black patients under the age of 55, the rate of stroke increased from 83 per 100,000 individuals in 1993 to 128 per 100,000 in 2005. Among young Caucasians, it increased from 26 strokes per 100,000 to 48 for every 100,000 patients.
"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," Dr. Kissela said. "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."
The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was recently published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. No conflicts were reported.