One-third of people who suffer
strokes before the age of 50 will have trouble dealing with the challenges
of daily life even several years later, a new study finds.
The finding suggests that younger age provides only limited protection
against the devastation of a stroke.
While strokes are much rarer in younger people, 10% of all strokes occur
from age 18 to 50, the study authors noted.
Dr Steven Levine, an attending neurologist at The Brooklyn Hospital Centre
in New York City, agreed.
"Stroke in young people is more common than most people realize,"
he said. "Approximately 15% of all strokes due to blocked arteries [called
strokes] occur in young adults and adolescents."
Significant economic impact
Levine, who was not involved in the new study, added that stroke can often
have a devastating effect on the lives of younger patients.
"Compared to stroke in older people, stroke in the young has
significant economic impact by leaving victims disabled prior to their most
productive years," he pointed out.
The new Dutch study was led by Frank-Erik de Leeuw, associate professor of
neurology at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre. His team tracked
the progress of 722 people who first had a stroke at ages 18 to 50.
After an average of nine years, about one in three still required assistance
in some situations due to lingering disability that was at least at a moderate
level. Some were unable to independently accomplish household chores and take
care themselves, the study found.
Hemorrhagic strokes, which occur when there's bleeding in the brain,
resulted in the most disability, followed by ischemic strokes and the
"mini-strokes" known as transient ischemic attacks.
Not surprisingly, having a second stroke often boosted the risk of
disability, the team reported in the issue of the journal Stroke.
Early treatment and rehabilitation
"Even if patients seem relatively well recovered with respect to motor
function, there may still be immense 'invisible' damage that leads to loss
of independence," de Leeuw said in a journal news release.
"Most doctors view young stroke patients as a group with great recovery
opportunities," de Leeuw said. "But our study is the first to show
these almost life-long effects of stroke on performance. This is important to
communicate right from the start to patients and families."
Levine said there are resources available to help younger patients deal with
the aftermath of stroke.
"Rehabilitation is very important with an emphasis on early
treatment," he said. "Prevention of a second stroke is also critical,
which is why young stroke
survivors should be evaluated by stroke specialists to determine and treat
program helps stroke survivors
Expectations need to be realistic as well, Levine noted.
Potential long-term disability
"Just because someone is young when they have a stroke, that doesn't
necessarily mean they will have good recovery; in fact, only about half of
young stroke survivors return to work," Levine said. "Of those,
approximately one in four require adjustments in their occupation."
Dr Aviva Lubin is associate stroke director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New
York City. She said the Dutch study "highlights the potential long-term
disability after stroke".
However, "stroke care has made strides in the past two decades, as
shown in the decreasing proportion of patients with poor functional outcome
over the time of the [Dutch] study," she added. "Such improvement is
probably due to intensive rehabilitation after stroke followed by continued
And Levine pointed out that support is out there for stroke patients and
"There are many websites addressing young stroke victims, and social
media networking can provide additional avenues for raising awareness and
linking individuals and families," Levine said.
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