Actor Luke Perry died of a stroke at the age of 52 this week, a seemingly young age for a disease that, in the public consciousness anyway, seems to be a problem mainly of the elderly. But as CNN reports, strokes can happen to anyone at any age, even to teenagers and adolescents.
In fact, according to a 2017 report from the American Academy of Neurology, 15 percent of ischemic strokes happen to young adults and teenagers. And in extremely rare cases, strokes can even happen to preadolescent children and even infants and newborns. According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, pediatric strokes, as they’re called, affect 25 in 100,000 newborns and 12 in 100,000 children under 18 years of age.
Mitchell S. V. Elkind, chair of the American Stroke Association Advisory Committee, says that the problem is on the rise.
“There is evidence that stroke rates among young people are increasing in the United States and this requires additional research.”
What’s more, he said, parents, kids, and teens aren’t taught about the risk of strokes among younger people, so a lack of education and awareness puts young people at even greater risk.
What is a stroke?
There are multiple types of strokes, but all generally rely on the same type of mechanism: a blocked or weakened blood vessel preventing blood from reaching the brain.
Shannen Doherty says she is "Heartbroken. Devastated by the loss of my friend" Luke Perry. "Luke reached out to me during my cancer journey and we picked right back up," she said, adding that they were "working on show ideas" together before his death https://t.co/SFRv3ZAExu pic.twitter.com/SFmXOXKlgp
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) March 5, 2019
What are the risk factors for strokes?
Although strokes can and do happen out of nowhere to individuals who are otherwise seemingly healthy, there are certain risk factors to beware of. For example, diets with high calories, lots of saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium can increase the risk, as can a lifestyle devoid of exercise. Similar risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and concurrent cardiovascular diseases.
It bears noting that, as of this writing, the cause and type of Luke Perry’s stroke are not known, and it is unclear if his lifestyle played any role.
Knowing the signs
The American Heart Association has come up with an acronym to teach Americans about the signs of a stroke, and it’s called the F.A.S.T. test.
- Face: the face is drooping.
- Arms: arms are weak.
- Speech: speech is slurred or difficult.
- Time: it’s time to call 911.
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, according to Clinician Review, and the second-leading cause of death worldwide, behind heart disease. The leading cause of strokes in the U.S. is high blood pressure.