The number of strokes suffered by young people has soared in recent years. Millennials—people aged 18 to 34 years old—are having more strokes than ever before.
Researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 2003 to 2012 there was a 15% increase in the number of strokes suffered by men ages 18 to 34 and a 32% increase for women of the same age.
Geographical Differences in Stroke for Young People
Using similar data, Scientific American explored whether the rate of stroke changed depending on geographical location. The researchers concluded that the increase in stroke depends in part on where you live.
A research team led by five stroke experts found that the Midwest and West saw the greatest uptick in strokes suffered by young people. The researchers also identified that there were bigger increases in urban areas over rural ones. To reach these conclusions, the researchers analyzed data from 2003 to 2012 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) database.
The earlier analysis from the CDC published in JAMA Neurology determined that stroke risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking are increasing among millennials. This tended to demonstrate that risk factors for stroke were the same amongst all groups but that millennials were beginning to experience these risk factors at an earlier age because of lifestyle changes.
The Scientific American’s research, however, concluded that some stroke data for young people bucked these trends. For example, the greatest increase in stroke for the entire nation has been in the southeastern United Stated. The South has traditionally been referred to as the “stroke belt.” But Scientific American’s number crunching showed that in the western states strokes in young people rose as much 70% and as much as 85% in western cities that had a population of more than one million residents from 2003 to 2012.
During that same time period, strokes in the Midwest rose by as much as 34%. In the South, however, which typically holds the population most at risk of stroke, there was an insignificant increase in stroke.
Why Has There Been An Increase In Stroke for Young People in Certain Parts of the Country?
There are a number of potential explanations for why the stroke rates increased in one part of the country and not another.
One explanation may be better imaging. Imaging—like CT, CTA, MRI, and MRI—are routinely used to look for signs of a stroke in the brain. In areas like the Pacific Northwest, which did not see an increase in stroke rates for younger people, may have already been using imaging technology to diagnose strokes in young people.
Why were there no significant increases in stroke in the South? The South—known as the stroke belt—already had a high number of strokes in young people. This means that it takes a far greater increase to make a statistical impact because it was already known that younger people were having strokes in these areas.
Past studies have associated strokes with high levels of pollution. One explanation for why urban millennials have seen such an increase in stroke is that they are experiencing more air pollution over a shorter period of time.
Why Have Stroke Rates Increased for Young People?
Severe strokes among younger adults are a major problem. Disability in individuals during their peak earning years severely impacts their lives as well as lives of their families. Additionally, those same risk factors that caused the original stroke may not be going away. Risk factors like smoking, obesity, and diabetes are cumulative over time.
It is also worrisome because people who have strokes early in life are still at risk of having strokes later in life. Second strokes are usually far more debilitating than a first stroke.
The reasons for the increase in strokes in millennials are not entirely clear. Some experts, including Ralph Sacco, president of the American Academy of Neurology, have speculated that obesity, diabetes, and a lack of physical activity may be to blame as these risk factors for stroke have a greater impact on younger people. Drug use may be another factor.
What Does This Mean for Stroke Negligence and Medical Malpractice?
Years ago it was believed that only older adults suffered strokes. Therefore, when it came to diagnosing young patients—except perhaps for those younger patients on birth control medication—stroke was not frequently considered.
It has thoroughly been proven in study after study that younger people are having strokes at increasing rates. Doctors and hospitals must be equipped to recognize stroke signs and symptoms quickly in younger people.
To do this, doctors must use sophisticated imaging technology to quickly identify the presence of stroke. Identifying a stroke is not enough. Doctors and hospitals must quickly act to treat younger stroke patients without delay. This includes proving medications that can dissolve the presence of blood clots (called TPA, thrombolytics, or clot buster) in the most common types of strokes (called ischemic strokes). Depending on the size and location of the stroke, doctors may have to surgically remove the blood clot.
If doctors delay stroke diagnosis and treatment – or misdiagnose the stroke altogether – it may be negligence. To learn more about stroke medical malpractice and stroke negligence lawsuits visit Eadie Hill Trial Lawyers or The Stroke Lawyers. You can also contact us so we can answers your questions about stroke malpractice and help you decide if we are the best lawyers for your stroke negligence case.