STROKES DO HAPPEN TO YOUNGER PEOPLE

May 31, 2019

STROKES DO HAPPEN TO YOUNGER PEOPLE

Know and Heed the Signs of Stroke, No Matter Your Age

APPLETON, Wis – Ceci Nider was getting ready for work in March 2009 when she suddenly became paralyzed on her left side. She was 42.

Ceci’s husband immediately recognized the situation as a stroke and called 911. At the time, the 911 Operator questioned his assumption of a stroke after asking Ceci’s age.

“Many people think of strokes as ‘an older person’s concern,’” said Thomas Mattio, PhD, MD, neurologist with the Neuroscience Group and medical director of the ThedaCare Stroke Center. “According to the National Stroke Association, about 10 to 15 percent of all strokes happen to people under the age of 45.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that someone has a stroke about every 40 seconds. It predicts 800,000 strokes will occur this year.

“Our biggest concern with young people and strokes is that they often ignore the symptoms and do not seek immediate medical attention,” said Dr. Mattio. “The first three hours after the onset of a stroke are the ‘golden window’. Those who receive medical attention within that timeframe have a much better chance of surviving and having less permanent injury.”

The CDC lists the following stroke warning signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg — especially when limited to one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Dr. Mattio observed that the lifestyle factors that put younger people at risk for a stroke are similar to those of older people. He explained that these conditions are developing at an earlier age. These factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Being physically inactive.
  • Engaging in heavy or binge drinking.
  • Smoking.
  • Using illicit drugs such as cocaine, cannabis and methamphetamines.

An American Academy of Neurology study found that between 1995 and 2008, the number of strokes in people between the ages of 15 and 44 increased by as much as 53 percent.

“Again, it’s our biggest concern about younger people and strokes…not recognizing the emergency situation and seeking immediate help,” said Dr. Mattio. “The mental, emotional and financial tolls on younger stroke victims and their families are significant. We can’t stress enough the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.”

He offered these suggestions to young people for preventing a stroke:

  • Control blood pressure.
  • Quit smoking or vaping.
  • Control diabetes.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and active lifestyle.
  • Eat a diet primarily consisting of fruits and vegetables and lower the amount of sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation or not at all.
  • Treat sleep apnea.

For Ceci, her husband’s quick action saved her life. Unknown to her, she had a congenital arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between an artery and veins in her brain, which caused a massive brain bleed.

After surgery to repair the AVM, Ceci was put into an induced coma for a week to allow her brain to heal. She then spent the next two months in the hospital recovering and participating in therapy.

“They told my husband I may never walk or talk again,” said Ceci. “I walked out of the hospital, with help, and I can’t stop talking.”

She credits the doctors, nurses and therapists at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah for her recovery. Ceci now drives, works part-time and is a volunteer at the hospital’s gift shop.  

“I count my blessings every day,” she said. “I thought strokes were an old person’s illness. I am so grateful that my husband’s grandmother was a nurse and she taught him to recognize the symptoms, and that helped save my life.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.