Stroke rates rising in young adults

London: In a startling finding, a new research has shown that children as young as five years are now having strokes in the US and blamed unhealthy lifestyles as the main reason behind the trend.

The stroke rate among five to 44-year-olds has gone up by about a third in the past 10 years, found the researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers, who analysed hospital data of millions of patients between 1995 and 2008, also found that high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity were common in stroke patients, the BBC reported.

During this period, the rate of ischemic stroke, which is caused due to blood clots, was found to have gone up by 31 per cent in five to 14-year-olds, from 3.2 strokes per 10,000 hospital cases to 4.2 per 10,000.

While, the increase was 30 per cent in people aged 15 to 34 years, it was 37 per cent in patients between the ages of 35 and 44, the researchers found.

In all age groups the increase was greater in men than in women, they said.

Figures for haemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding on the brain, showed decreases in age groups except the five to 14-year-olds, but the researchers said: "The increase in ischemic stroke far outweighs the decreases."

Detailing their study in the journal Annals of Neurology, the researchers said the prevalence of hypertension, obesity and tobacco use had increased in stroke patients.

More than half of 35 to 44-year-olds who had an ischemic stroke also had hypertension, they said.

"Urgent public health initiatives are needed to reverse trends in modifiable risk factors associated with stroke in adolescents and young adults," they concluded.

Dr Lorna Layward, from the Stroke Association in the UK, said: "People usually associate strokes with older people, but a quarter of all strokes happen to people of working age, and around 400 children have a stroke every year in the UK.

"We know that high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for stroke, along with other factors such as obesity, diabetes, poor diet and smoking.

"This research emphasises the need for people to be aware that stroke can affect younger people, and for all of us, regardless of our age, to check our blood pressure and adopt a healthy lifestyle."