Stroke, heart attack rates increase in younger people

Researchers have made an alarming discovery. The stroke and heart attack rate in young people is on the rise. Overall the rates of stroke and heart attack have been going down since 1950, so the new numbers surprised scientists.

The study appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The biggest concern is stroke. The results show the rate of stroke more than doubled in patients age 35 to 39 from 1995—2014. People age 40—55 also had increased rates of stroke, while strokes actually decreased in people age 55 and over in the same time frame.

Lead author of the research, Joel N. Swerdel, says obesity and diabetes in young people are the main culprits. But young people can get out of danger if they change their lifestyle.

“Behavioral change is hard, but this study is an early warning sign,” Swerdel said.

Vibhav Bansal, MD, of Carle Neuroscience Institute, is part of Carle’s stroke team and he treats stroke patients every day. He sees the same trend, treating more young people for stroke.

“The numbers are real and I agree that obesity and diabetes are the main reasons more young people are having strokes,” he said.

Dr. Bansal (pictured) says if people exercise, eat healthy, stop using tobacco and don’t abuse alcohol, they can reduce the risk of stroke.

People should also get regular check-ups so doctors can monitor their blood pressure—the leading cause of stroke.

Even small steps can make a big difference.

“Start by having one less sugary drink a day. Start by walking to the end of your driveway or the end of your street and back. Start by having a few less cigarettes a day,” Dr. Bansal said.

“Talk to your doctor about making lifestyle changes and he or she can give you resources to meet your specific needs so you can be a success,” Dr. Bansal counseled.

“Just start.”