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Strokes Up Among the Young, Down Among the Old
Date:2/24/2010

p>"The epidemics of diabetes and obesity -- and the high blood pressure that can come with that -- are pretty significant risk factors for stroke," Kissela said. "These risk factors are more common among younger people than they were 15 or 20 years ago."

Though the researchers found an increase in strokes among both younger blacks and whites, the increase was statistically significant only among whites, with the incidence doubling from 12 per 100,000 people to 25 per 100,000 over the study period. The researchers indicated that they did not have enough data to draw conclusions about rates among Hispanics.

The steep increase should be a wake-up call for doctors and their patients, Kissela said. "Young people and their doctors need to be aware that young people can be at risk of stroke," he said. "We need to look for these conditions early, and we need to treat them aggressively if we are going to prevent long-term complications for stroke."

Brian Silver, a spokesman for the American Stroke Association and a stroke neurologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, agreed that the study's finding rings true.

"It does match what we are seeing, which is an increase in young patients coming in with stroke," Silver said.

As he explained it, obesity can strain the heart, leading to hypertension, and it can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Both diabetes and hypertension are primary risk factors for stroke. Over time, small strokes deep within the brain can lead to memory and thinking problems and, ultimately, dementia, Silver said.

To reduce the chances of having a stroke, Silver said, people need to keep their blood pressure and diabetes under control, watch their weight and exercise, Silver said.

In the event of a stroke, research has shown that people do better if they're taken to what's known as a primary stroke center, a specialty hospital that follows evidence-based protocols in cari
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