Stroke rates are rising among the younger population despite the misconception that strokes only occur in the elderly. In fact, one-third of strokes are believed to occur in people under the age of 65 and the numbers are increasing.
Joni Clark, MD, a stroke neurologist at Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center, believes that the growing obesity epidemic in the United States may be partially to blame for the increase of stroke among the young.
"Stroke is no longer considered an elderly person's disease," says Dr. Clark. "Obesity and diabetes - which often lead to high blood pressure and high cholesterol - are major contributing factors for the increase of stroke in younger individuals."
In recognition of National Stroke Month in May, listed below are 10 other common misconceptions about stroke.
- Myth: Strokes aren't preventable. Fact: Approximately 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with healthy lifestyle changes.
- Myth: Strokes are painful. Fact: The symptoms that often lead to stroke, such as dizziness or a loss of balance, do not cause sudden pain.
- Myth: Smoking doesn't cause a stroke. Fact: Smoking is a large risk factor for stroke.
- Myth: Strokes are rare. Fact: Every 45 seconds, someone in United States has a stroke and, on average, one American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes.
- Myth: Drugs and alcohol use don't increase the risk of stroke. Fact: Substance abuse and excessive alcohol consumption are leading indicators for stroke among the young.
- Myth: Misdiagnosis is rare. Fact: An estimated 1 in 7 strokes in young adults is misdiagnosed.
- Myth: Strokes can't be treated. Fact: Patients who receive treatment for stroke within 4.5 hours of their first symptoms tend to have better outcomes.
- Myth: It's all in the genes. Fact: Although family history does play a role in the risk of stroke, the hereditary conditions that increase stroke risk can often be controlled.
- Myth: High blood pressure and cholesterol should not be taken seriously. Fact: High blood pressure and high cholesterol contribute to stroke.
- Myth: A stroke is a heart condition. Fact: Although many believe a stroke occurs in the heart, it actually takes place in the brain.
Barrow stroke experts and patients are available for interviews throughout the month of May. Please call Carmelle Malkovich (602) 406-3319 to schedule.