Stroke in Young Adults: Not So Uncommon

While most strokes occur in people over age 55, the risk of stroke for those under 45 is still pretty high, occurring in about one in 1,000. Unlike older adults whose strokes are usually caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and pieces of plaque from coronary artery disease breaking off and moving to the brain, the causes of strokes in young people are more often the result of other factors.

Abuse of speed-like drugs, especially the use of amphetamines and cocaine among young adults significantly raises their risk for stroke, according to recent studies.

Other risk factors include an inherited blood disorder that doesn't dissolve clots, which often form in the veins of the brain, causing a stroke.

Sickle-cell anemia, a blood disorder most commonly found in African-American children, has also been associated with increased risk of stroke.

And a recent study reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association found that young adults-those between the ages of 18 to 44-with overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) had a 44 percent increased risk of having a stroke compared to those with normal thyroid function.

Smoking, obesity, and contraceptive use also can contribute to stroke in young people.

Know the Symptoms

According to research by Wayne State University in Detroit, young adults with stroke symptoms may be misdiagnosed in emergency rooms, resulting in precious lost time in getting appropriate treatment. For the best stroke outcome, medical interventions have to take place between 48 and 72 hours following a stroke.

No matter what your age, get to the hospital quickly if you have these symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially if it occurs on one side of your body
  • Sudden confusion or you have 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

Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can help you prevent heart disease and stroke, including:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Staying active-Getting between 30 and 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most of the days of the week can help you reduce your risk of fatal heart disease
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet-Sticking to an eating plan that is low in fat, cholesterol and salt and rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains can help protect your heart against disease


"Stroke." University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

"Amphetamine, Cocaine Usage Increase Risk Of Stroke Among Young Adults." Science Daily.