FACT: The risk of having a stroke more than doubles each decade after the age of 55.
FACT: Strokes can and do occur at ANY age.
FACT: Nearly one-fourth of strokes occur in people under the age of 65.*
As I mentioned in a previous post, when I first had my stroke, I, like many - had the assumption that most people that had experienced a stroke were old! Boy, did I learn that is not the case. I have certainly learned through my recovery process that stroke has no age limit.
Stroke risk may increase with age or habits (like heavy drinking, smoking), but as science has evidenced, more and more people under 60 are having strokes. There are a few types of strokes that are caused by blood supply being stopped by the brain. As you can see from the facts listed above, strokes are no longer restricted to the "elderly," like me! Unfortunately, they're becoming more prevalent in all age groups, including newborns (neonatal strokes), as well as in unborn babies (prenatal).
An Ischemic stroke is the most common type (87%), which is caused by a blood clot in the vessels of the brain or a blood clot outside the brain travels to the vessels.
A Thrombotic stroke is an ischemic stroke caused by a clot forming in a blood vessel in your brain, (Source: healthline.com).
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), on the other hand, is called a ministroke, or a “warning.” This means the blood flow is temporarily blocked to your brain and lasts only a short period of time. I incurred a TIA six months prior to my ischemic stroke, but the doctors didn’t tell me it was a TIA; and since I didn’t have any side effects from it, I didn’t have a clue about its diagnosis. I only learned about it later when I was researching for this blog. Additionally, I’ve had numerous people tell me, “I’ve had a stroke too,” and when you discuss it with them, you learn it was a TIA, not a debilitating stroke. Yet, they’re unaware of this fact, as I was. This is NOT a stroke.
The opposite type of stroke is a Hemorrhagic Stroke, which is a massive bleed in the brain; not a sudden loss of blood, but an excess of blood in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke ultimately occurs when a blood vessel in your brain is not blocked, but ruptures and causes blood to spill to the tissues surrounding the vessel. As neurologists will tell you, the brain does not like blood! This type of stroke generally presents differently than other strokes. The side effects tend to affect speech-related (all forms and degrees of aphasia), memory and concentration; while presenting few, if any, physical effects.
According to the site Everyday Health, stroke rate is actually decreasing overall, yet increasing in younger people. Why is that? One reason is technology and MRI’s detecting more information that they have been not been able to before. The study hasn’t been concluded quite yet, as the technology is being used currently to find out if this is in fact a valid conclusion. Gotta love technology, right?! Do you have experience with this?
An article written by NCBI on ischemic stroke in young adults stated these facts:
a) Survival is more than 90% at 5 years, compared with 40% for older-age strokes;
b) Ninety percent are able to live independently, compared with about 40% of older-age strokes; 50-70% are able to return to work after stroke and 5-year stroke recurrence rates are half what they are for the elderly (15% vs 30%). So, stroke recovery through this study is showing technically that a stroke at a young age is not only recoverable - but so much so that you can go back to work and your normal activities. I’ve seen so many amazing examples of these strong stroke warriors on Instagram and boy are they inspiring! Follow me to check some of them out.
A stroke occurring at an early age versus an older age can look quite different, as it pertains to recovery. Recovery is unquestionably possible to recover after a stroke, regardless of age. However, there are strategies you can implement in your life to prevent stroke. Here are some examples:
Exercise consistently, regularly maintain a healthy weight by making good eating choices as well.
Obesity raises your risk significantly according to reports and doctors. Work with your doctor(s) and manage your health as though your life depends upon it, because it does!
Maintain a diet low in saturated fats (unhealthy) and high in whole foods, such as fruits and veggies. This evidence and advice is outlined in the article, Power Foods for your Brain.
Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol levels at an early age and continue this practice throughout your life. Work with your physician to monitor and control diabetes, if it’s an issue for you.
Avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking. This is standard advice for most issues in America.
Find a new hobby, have tea with friends, get outside! Click here for an article on Self Care post-stroke for additional informational.
In summary, stroke recovery in younger and older survivors CAN be different. Recovery is possible at all ages if you commit to hard work consistently, which is necessary to achieve full recovery. A word of caution – there’s a great deal of misinformation in the public sector, as well as the healthcare industry, that recovery is only possible within the 1st “x” months/years. “Untrue,” says modern science. In order to prove this to yourself, do the work required on a consistent basis, and you will see results! Younger survivors may have a longer road ahead of them in years, yet a better rate of recovery because their young brain’s ability to learn new skills, i.e., to increase plasticity at a faster rate.
New technology, studies and helpful tools are discovered more and more every day. That being said, we are doing our best to bring you the ‘best of the best!’ As you can see, technology and the times are enabling us to become more and more aware of the strokes happening at any age, to anyone. However, with treatment, attention and caring for yourself and your health, you can hopefully avoid having another stroke.
One last word, if you continue to experience the fear of having another stroke, as I did, you are experiencing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), which occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. You hear about this disorder a great deal with soldiers who have experienced war.
There is a solution, however. Since I am not a healthcare practitioner, I cannot prescribe a medical solution, but I can explain how I resolved this issue. My former psychotherapist, Kathleen Todd,MSW, was a certified EMDR specialist; thus, she was well-trained and certified in the practice of using the scientifically-proven method of EMDR to resolve this disorder.Ms Todd is now semi-retired. She is no longer practicing as a licensed psychotherapist or administering EMDR.
If you're interested in exploring this solution, you need only to follow this link: https://www.emdr.com and click on "Find a Practitioner" at the top left. I highly recommend this scientifically-proven method for resolving PTSD!
Click here to find an article about EMDR on Healthline.com. Below you can find a short clip from YouTube we were given by a stroke survivor group on EMDR and PTSD, which also affects us stroke survivors.
If this is an issue for you, I’d suggest you find a psychotherapist in your area who is certified in this amazing technique and get the help you need.
Last but not least! The Birth Injury Center, a fabulous resource. Their mission is "to assist anyone who has been affected by a birth injury. Our website is a compilation of information around the different types of injuries. We offer resources to assist the injured and their families, and we will continuously be adding more. Affected families can also reach out to us if they have any questions at all or are looking for advice. What's important to us is providing resources and help for those families that are affected". To see their organization, click here.
As always, thanks for reading everybody - and I wish you the best rest of your week! We are getting some amazing weather here in AZ!