A set of twins’ strokes at 26, just nine months apart, are part of a growing issue involving younger people and strokes doctors say — particularly because the pair did not share a genetic cause.
The first of the twins’ strokes at 26 occurred last summer, when Kathryn Tucker experienced classic symptoms of a stroke — ones that went initially undiagnosed due to her age.
Tucker felt a “sharp pain” on the right side of the back of her head, impeding her vision and causing numbness as she went to bed one night in July. Her brother took her to the hospital, where the stroke was initially diagnosed as a migraine with an aura.
Tucker returned home, still unaware she’d suffered a stroke, and says of the days afterwards:
“I was absolutely terrified… I slept for three days straight. Then, when I woke up, my vision was horrible. Everything was distorted and one-dimensional. I could barely get around.”
Tucker’s condition didn’t improve, and eventually, she went to an urgent care facility, where the 26-year-old learned she’d suffered a stroke days prior.
Sister Kimberly Tucker, also 26, soon left school to help care for Kathryn after her stroke — but that April, the same issue struck Kimberly, on the opposite side.
Vascular neurologist at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix Dr. Joni Clark spoke to ABC about the twins’ strokes at 26.
As the women do not possess identical DNA and are fraternal twins, the cause of the strokes was deemed not to be genetic.
Clark notes that there is no family history of stroke, and says:
“Honestly, it’s rare for us to actually evaluate two sisters who’ve had strokes within months of each other… If they had a family history, it would not be a surprise. It’s quite uncommon… We see this mainly among young people who have risk factors that you should see in elderly patients.”
“Here at Barrow, we see a huge population of stroke patients — and, in my own experience, which is anecdotal, I see a fair number of young people with stroke… The majority are spontaneous.”
The doctor says the twins’ strokes at 26 are part of a growing trend of strokes in young adults. Both of the women smoked and used birth control pills, known factors for increasing stroke risk.
Clark mentions lifestyle factors like obesity and activity level as driving the trend, too:
“You’d also be surprised how many young adults don’t exercise… It’s sad, because the rise is due to good, old stroke risk factors that shouldn’t happen when they are young.”
Kimberly Tucker had some advice for young people who fit the risk profile, saying:
“Don’t think you are impervious to stroke… We think we are invincible until we are not. This taught us a huge lesson that we are not guaranteed great health and we need to take care of our bodies.”
The twins’ strokes at 26 were described by Kimberly as rarer than the chance of being struck by lightning.