Stroke isn’t just an “old person’s” disease; it strikes people in their 20s; young people have unique risk factors, but they also share risk factors with older people.

Being 20-something doesn’t, in and of itself, make a man or woman immune to suffering a stroke.

Dr. Jose Biller is a neurologist who specializes in strokes that affect young adults, and is chair of Loyola University’s Department of Neurology.

He directed the care of a 20-year-old woman who fell victim to a stroke – which was caused by a vein thrombosis (blood clot) in her brain.

But where does a blood clot like this come from in a 20-year-old?
• The patient had a genetic abnormality that makes her blood more prone to clotting.
• This risk factor was compounded by the use of a hormonal birth control pill. Birth control pills are a known risk factor for deep vein thromboses.

Dr. Biller points out that there should never be a cookie cutter approach to people who have a stroke. Even children have strokes.

Startling Stroke Facts
• Babies can have a stroke.
• A stroke kills 32,000 brain cells every second.
• Seconds, not minutes, make all the difference in saving the patient’s life and a full recovery.

Are more and more younger people having strokes, or is this just an illusion?
Stroke awareness has greatly increased over the years, and as a result, family members and friends are now more likely to think, “This could be a stroke,” upon witnessing the symptoms in a 20-something individual and even a child.

Historically, the suspicion of stroke was very low among witnesses to a young adult with sudden onset of the classical neurological symptoms.

These days, more young lives are being saved due to fast thinking of witnesses. So perhaps it’s not so much that more young adults are having strokes, but that more are being diagnosed in people 20 to 54—due to increased education about this condition – which is the No. 1 cause of disability in the U.S.

Big 5 Risk Factors
• High blood pressure
• Obesity
• Smoking
• High cholesterol
• Diabetes

Stroke Risk Factors that More Likely Affect Younger People
• Contraceptives
• Blood clotting disorder if undiscovered and thus not treated
• Congenital heart defect
• Drug use