Ischaemic Stroke In Young Adults: Risk Factors And Long-term Consequences

Timely treatment in stroke will go a long way in improving a patient’s quality of life and reducing lifelong morbidity and mortality.

Stroke occurs when either a blood vessel supplying our brain is blocked, or the supply of blood to the brain is otherwise reduced for instance due to a clot travelling from the heart. Stroke is a disabling and potentially life-threatening condition and millions of Indians are at risk of it without their realization. While the numbers of stroke patients continue to rise exponentially, like many other brain diseases, there is still a remarkable lack of awareness regarding this condition. Timely treatment in stroke will go a long way in improving a patient’s quality of life and reducing lifelong morbidity and mortality. While traditionally stroke affects older age groups, a large number of ischemic strokes are now known also affect young people, in their 30s or 40s. 

Sometimes even adolescents in their teens or early 20s are affected. Stroke at a younger age naturally has more life-altering implications in people at the prime of their working careers, and can negatively impact them severely. Compared with stroke in older adults, stroke in young patients leaves them disabled during and sometimes before their most productive years. Also, we must remember that a young person with stroke has a relatively higher chance of recovery, due to better brain neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adjust and learn new skills. There are various factors that help in determining how one will recover after suffering from a stroke. These include the size and location of the stroke, time since stroke occurrence, access to immediate medical care, neurological attention and access to a stroke unit in a hospital and whether timely intervention with drug or thrombectomy (clot removal) are performed. In addition, medical comorbidities, caregiver support and the patient’s own motivation level play important roles. Post-stroke depression may need counselling and psychological support and cargivers can find help in patient stroke support groups.

Lastly, in these times of COVID-19, it is even more important to be aware of stroke in the young, as devastating ischemic stroke, potentially affecting large-vessels (needing urgent thrombus removal thrombectomy procedure or decompressive brain surgery to save life) in increasingly found in otherwise completely healthy COVID patients even in their 20s and 30s. This is because COVID is a vicious virus that triggers abnormal and severe clotting in ones’ blood. Fortunately, the risk is around 1 per cent (higher if other risk factors for stroke are present) in all covid patients in general, but for the patient in whom it occurs, it can be life-threatening. One simply must follow all guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing and hand sanitizing. Get vaccinated as early as possible These minor inconveniences are worth it to avoid life-changing complications.

Interestingly, a recent Korean study of 3.5 million young (20-40 years) adults published recently in the journal Circulation showed that a one-point increase in a score based on six common measures of cardiovascular health (low cholesterol, a healthy weight, participation in physical activity, under-control blood sugar and blood pressure and nonsmoker status) was associated with a 42 percent reduction in heart attack risk and lower risk of heart failure and stroke, also suggesting that while it’s best to start out with good heart health and healthy habits, gains are possible even for those who don’t have good heart health in young adulthood. 

To stay healthy throughout life, eat a well-balanced diet, avoid processed foods and sugary drinks, limit your salt and alcohol intake, give up smoking, exercise daily, this will lower your risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

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