Preventing Stroke at Any Age

Stroke risk and prevention similar for younger and older individuals

(RxWiki News) Strokes are affecting people at a younger age. While the risk of stroke increases with age, the risk factors for preventable strokes are the same regardless of age.  

Strokes are more common than most people think for those under age 55. However, research has not focused much on stroke risk factors for this younger population.   

A recent study found that of the preventable strokes, risk factors were similar for younger and older people. Stroke prevention should focus on the shared risk factors of high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking in all age groups.

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Arndt Rolfs, MD, of Albrecht-Kossel-Institute for Neuroregeneration, University of Rostock, Germany, and colleagues set out to examine Fabry disease in stroke victims between the ages of 18 and 55.  

Fabry disease is caused by problems with metabolizing lipids. Lipids are responsible for keeping the cells in the body healthy. A build up of lipids can cause medical problems, such as cardiovascular disease. 

The study included 5,023 patients that had a stroke between April 2007 and January 2010. The average age of patients was 46. 

Of the 5,023 patients, 3,396 had had an ischemic stroke, 271 had had a hemorrhagic stroke and 1,071 had had a transient ischemic attack.

An ischemic stroke happens when the blood supply can't reach the brain due to clogged arteries. Hemorrhagic stroke is the result of a ruptured blood vessel bleeding into the brain and causing pressure. A transient ischemic attack is temporary interruption of blood flow to the brain.  

Researchers found that Fabry disease was diagnosed in 0.5 percent of the stroke patients. Overall, 59 percent of strokes occurred in males. But among the younger patients (18 to 24 years of age), 65.3 percent of strokes occurred in women.   

The study also found that atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) was common among stroke patients but more so among older patients and males. Arterial hypertension was seen in 47 percent of patients. Hyperlipidemia (too many lipids in the blood stream) was seen in 34.1 percent and diabetes in 10 percent of patients.

High blood pressure was seen in 10.7 percent of the youngest and 58.7 percent of the oldest patients. Family history of cardiovascular problems was found in 41 percent of patients.

Birth control pills were used by 30.5 percent of women. One-third of the stroke victims were smokers. Approximately one-third of all strokes in the young remained unexplained.

Results suggested that the risk factors for preventable causes of strokes were similar for younger and older patients. Atrial fibrillation is the only exception because it is rarely found in younger patients. 

Shared risk factors included high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. 

"Population-based primary stroke prevention should target young as well as older persons and a focus on shared risk factors," authors commented in the study. 

The study, titled "Acute Cerebrovascular Disease in the Young," was published in the journal Stroke. The study was funded by Shire Human Genetic Therapies. Dr. Rolfs and colleagues disclosed no conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
February 3, 2013