Health Team

New research shows stroke victims getting younger

Posted October 11, 2012 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated October 11, 2012 6:37 p.m. EDT

— Thanks to risk factors that include obesity, diabetes and cholesterol, stroke victims are getting younger. 

According to new research published in the Journal of Neurology, 19 percent of stroke patients in 2005 were under the age of 55. That's up from 13 percent in 1995. 

Santos Rodriguez, a 46-year-old who suffered three strokes in March, said his symptoms started when he had trouble moving his left arm. By the time he got to the hospital, he could barely speak. 

"I know what I was trying to say, but I couldn't pronounce it," Rodriguez said. "I told the nurse, 'I'm trying to say things to you, and you're not understanding me.'"

After undergoing tests, Rodriguez was sent home. Hours later, he felt intense pain in his head and went to a different hospital, where his doctor told him he had suffered three separate strokes. 

"If patients start having their strokes younger, they will be left with many more years of having a disability," Dr. Aviva Lubin, the associate stroke director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said. 

In Rodriguez's case, he didn't know he was diabetic until after his stroke. With a wife and children to support, the stroke was a scary reminder that he needed to get his condition under control with diet and insulin. 

"It reminds you of how things can be taken away from you," he said. 

Seven months later, he is slowly regaining strength in his arm, and mentally he's nearly back to normal. 

During the 10-year period covered in the study, the average age of stroke victims fell from 71 to 69.