Why More Young Adults Are Suddenly Having Strokes

Strokes in young adults have suddenly started occurring with concerning frequency, and it has the medical community perplexed.

By Jennifer Hollohan | Published

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Lately, it seems you cannot turn on the news without seeing a report about a young person experiencing significant health problems. One such item that is becoming increasingly common is strokes in young adults. According to a study published in the journal Stroke, the rate of strokes among those under 45 is steadily rising. So, now medical experts are racing to find answers.

Most people do not realize that there are actually two different types of strokes. There are what is known as hemorrhagic strokes. They result from a damaged blood vessel rupturing and allowing blood to flow into the brain. It is the least common type of stroke, impacting approximately 13% of stroke victims. Hemorrhagic strokes are not the leading cause of strokes in young adults.

Experts are now seeing a rise in cases of ischemic strokes in young adults. In this form of stroke, the vessels carrying blood to the brain get obstructed. Ischemic strokes account for 87% of stroke cases and are becoming increasingly common among the younger population.

Roughly 10-15% of strokes strike those between ages 18-50, so it has never been unheard of for younger adults to experience one. But now, there is evidence that the rate of strokes in young adults is rising. There is concern among multiple generations of young adults who thought they would not have to worry about stroke until later in life.

While genetic factors can play a role in stroke risk, many lifestyle choices can increase the chances of suffering from a stroke. According to neurologist May Kim-Tenser, one of the primary factors is a sedentary lifestyle. When the pandemic hit and lockdowns began, many of us went from a previously active state to a relatively sedentary one. This shift may be part of the reason behind the growing number of strokes in young adults.

Other contributing factors are smoking, drugs, and poor dietary habits. All of these lifestyle choices result in high blood pressure. And high blood pressure is a major contributing factor in both kinds of strokes. So, while news of strokes in young adults seems a little scary, some known and effective preventative measures can help reduce the chance of stroke.

According to neurologist Kim-Tenser, “Just moving your body is probably one of the best things you could do, and you could probably decrease the risk through diet and exercise.” Following her advice may help reduce the risk of strokes in young adults. But it is also imperative to get the word out to the public. Doing so will help those who may be at risk currently.

That is one of the reasons a few celebrities have chosen to be vocal about their strokes. A few notable young stars who have shared the news of their own journey include Kid Cudi and Hailey Bieber. They hope that by openly sharing their experiences, they may help stem the tide of strokes in young adults. Kim-Tenser shares their sentiment, believing that spreading the word is a critical component of prevention.