Strokes increasing among young, middle-aged people

Posted at 4:50 AM, May 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-14 05:50:52-04

Doctors all over the United States say there is a major concern as young people are starting to have more strokes than ever before.

Why the numbers are increasing is a bit of a mystery, and it will probably remain a mystery for a while longer.

Statistics show every 40 seconds someone in the United State has a stroke, and every 4 minutes someone dies from a stroke.

These numbers are scary, and now it is happening to not only the older generation, but the younger generation as well.

“A lot of the younger people, because they are younger, don’t know yet that they have diabetes or high blood pressure. So, we have several people that come into the ER, and their blood sugar is 400, so those are all risk factors that puts them at risk of a heart attack or stroke,“ said Corpus Christi Medical Center Dr. Kim Onufrak.

A stroke is a 911 emergency, and you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

“So if you notice any of these signs, the arm is drooping, their face is drooping, their speech is slurred, then definitely call 911 or your nearest emergency center,” said Dr. Onufrak.

There is some good news: in the last 15 years the number of people dying overall from a stroke has dropped almost 60%.

“Time is very important in this case. We have medications here that we can give in the ER that if it is within the time limit of 4 1/2 of seeing the first symptoms, we can actually give the medication,” said Dr. Onufrak.

Strokes are no longer the 3rd leading cause of death. Strokes are now listed as the 5th leading cause of death in the United States. This might be because more people are using the acronym "FAST" to help remember the symptoms.

“If you ask the person to smile, and one side of the face is drooping. You can ask the person to raise up their arms; if one arm is not able to lift up or starting to droop down, that’s another sign. Speech, if they are having slurred speech or not able to understand the person. Then we also think time, “T” for time. Time is important in this case,” said Dr. Onufrak.

Corpus Christi Medical Center Dr. Kim Onufrak, says strokes can be avoidable if you control your life factors. A lot depends on what you eat, and if you control your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is well controlled. Eat a low salt, low cholesterol diet, and you can also try to stay away from drinking lots ofalcohol, and stay away from drugs like cocaine and methamphetamines.  Those can all affect you.

Stroke rates among young and middle-aged people worldwide are increasing, and these groups now account for nearly one-third of all strokes, according to a new study.

The analysis of data gathered between 1990 and 2010 found that the number of strokes among people aged 20 to 64 rose 25 percent during that time, and that this age group now accounts for 31 percent of the total number of strokes, compared with 25 percent before 1990.

More than 83,000 people aged 20 and younger suffer a stroke each year and account for 0.5 percent of all strokes worldwide.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.


Watch for these signs and symptoms if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke. Pay attention to when the signs and symptoms begin. The length of time they have been present can affect your treatment options:

  • Trouble speaking and understanding
  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Headache
  • Trouble walking
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to fluctuate or disappear. Think "FAST" and do the following:
    • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
    • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or is one arm unable to rise up?
    • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
    • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Call 911 or your local emergency number right away. Don’t wait to see if symptoms stop. Every minute counts. The longer a stroke goes untreated, the greater the potential for brain damage and disability.

If you’re with someone you suspect is having a stroke, watch the person carefully while waiting for emergency assistance.


A stroke may be caused by a blocked artery (ischemic stroke) or the leaking or bursting of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Some people may experience only a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain (transient ischemic attack, or TIA) that doesn’t cause permanent damage.

Risk factors

Many factors can increase your stroke risk. Some factors can also increase your chances of having a heart attack. Potentially treatable stroke risk factors include:

Lifestyle risk factors:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine

Medical risk factors:

  • Blood pressure readings higher than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)
  • Cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm 
  • Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack


A stroke can sometimes cause temporary or permanent disabilities, depending on how long the brain lacks blood flow and which part was affected. Complications may include

  • Paralysis or loss of muscle movement
  • Difficulty talking or swallowing.?
  • Memory loss or thinking difficulties
  • Emotional problems
  • Changes in behavior and self-care ability
  • Pain


  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Lowering the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet.
  • Quitting tobacco use
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Exercising regularly
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Treating obstructive sleep apnea
  • Avoiding illegal drugs.


Emergency treatment for stroke depends on whether you’re having an ischemic stroke blocking an artery — the most common kind — or a hemorrhagic stroke that involves bleeding into the brain.

Ischemic stroke

To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must quickly restore blood flow to your brain.

Therapy with clot-busting drugs must start within 4.5 hours if they are given into the vein — and the sooner, the better. Quick treatment not only improves your chances of survival but also may reduce complications. You may be given intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator (TPA).

Hemorrhagic stroke

Emergency treatment of hemorrhagic stroke focuses on controlling your bleeding and reducing pressure in your brain. You might also need surgery to help reduce future risk.

Treatment outcomes

One way to evaluate the care of patients diagnosed with stroke is to look at the percentage of patients receiving the timely and effective care measures that are appropriate. The goal is 100 percent.

If you think your having a stroke, call 911 and get to the nearest hospital emergency room. 

The emergency rooms at Corpus Christi Medical Center – Bay Area and Doctors Regional are Accredited, Designated Stroke Centers.  That means that processes are in place to treat stroke victims faster and can provide better stroke care. They are committed to improving care and that’s what matters most.