Stroke is increasing in younger populations—but why?

With recent research suggesting that strokes among younger people are becoming more prevalent, healthcare professionals are looking into why.

Two studies, one published in 2016 and another published this year show that physicians do, in fact, have something to worry about.

A 2016 study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that strokes more than doubled among people aged 35 to 39 between 1995 and 2014 and also rose among those over 55.

In the 2017 study, published in the journal JAMA Neurology, the data also showed an increase in stroke among people aged 35 to 44 from 2003 to 2012.

Mary G. George, MD, the lead author on the JAMA study and the senior medical officer and deputy associate director for science at the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that it isn’t clear why strokes among young people are increasing, especially because about 80 percent are preventable.

The data showed an increase in people who were at high risk for three or more of the common stroke risk factors, including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and tobacco use.

“More focused research on the causes of this alarming rise in the rates of stroke in younger ages is greatly needed,” said Ralph L. Sacco, MD, president of the American Academy of Neurology and a past president of the American Heart Association.

Sacco said one way to reduce strokes for everyone is to create better medical therapies and reduce people's risk factors.