If you’re in your twenties or thirties, the last thing that comes to your mind is a stroke. But strokes happen more often in young people than you think. It’s important to know the signs of a stroke and seek care right away. This medical emergency is cutting off blood from your brain. Ignoring the signs of a stroke can spell disaster.
Damage to strokes in young adults
If you don’t seek medical treatment right away, you can spend the rest of your life:
- Unable to move parts of your body
- Need someone to help go to the bathroom
- Unable to think clearly enough to do your work anymore
You can’t sleep from a stroke
“Young people don’t know the signs of a stroke. Even when they have symptoms, their mindset isn’t,” this is a medical emergency. I need to call 911.” Their thinking is that my legs are not working. “I’m going to sleep and it will get better,” says Nekricha Roach, M.D., a vascular neurologist.
Going to bed when you suddenly feel the discomfort of a stroke is the worst thing you can do.
“Treating a stroke is about time,” says Roach. We can give patients medicines so that they can make a full recovery. But they have to come to the hospital at least 4 to 4½ hours from the time they have symptoms.”
Sleep off, come the next day? “There’s nothing I can do at this point,” says Roach, a team member at the UVA Health-designated Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Roach shares, “I have two stroke patients in my clinic who are both under 25. One is paralyzed from the waist down.” Her patient was in the wheelchair alone when she had the stroke and went to bed. A stroke causes permanent brain damage.
Stroke success story
Having a stroke is scary. But a full recovery is possible. Take Skylar Hudgens. Seven years ago, she was at the University of Virginia at the age of 24, working in Charlottesville. Her stroke hit out of thin air. A friend took her to the hospital right away.
“I’m a prime example of what can happen when someone recognizes the signs of a stroke and gets treatment right away,” Skyler says. “That’s why we’re doing all this outreach to raise awareness of stroke.”
She now lives in Richmond, got married last month and walked 10 miles a day in Paris during their honeymoon. She’s about to start training for a half marathon.
Don’t get rid of strange and sudden symptoms
Signs of a stroke appear suddenly and for no apparent reason. “With the stroke, something suddenly went wrong,” Roach says.
It often affects one side of the body. In your leg or arm you may feel:
Or a stroke can:
- blur your vision
- Affect your ability to speak or have any meaning
- Make your face droop
Why are stroke symptoms different for different people? It all depends on which part of the brain is not getting oxygen.
A nonverbal teen or college student may be at risk
“An altered mental state is less likely to be recognized as a sign of stroke when it occurs in a young adult or teen,” notes Roach. “Nobody thinks an 18 or 20-year-old is going to have a stroke. So if your teen is asleep and isn’t answering questions appropriately, you’re thinking about it because he’s just a teen or a young adult who isn’t engaged.”
At the age of 20, a stroke suffered by Aubrey Plaza prevented blood from reaching the language center in her brain. In an interview, she called it a “strange” event. She suddenly had “expressive aphasia – where I could understand what was going on, but I couldn’t speak or communicate. Like, you could say something, and I would know what you meant. But I couldn’t express it or even write it down.”
Why are strokes increasing in young adults?
Strokes are on the increase among young people. why? More people develop high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes at younger ages. These medical conditions are the main causes of stroke — especially when they go untreated.
You cannot feel high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Get checkups once a year, even if you feel healthy.
Young and Super Fit? You can still have a stroke
With Skyler’s stroke, the clot got stuck in an artery that supplies blood to the part of her brain that controls vision and balance. One evening after dinner outside, she felt something inside her head. The room started spinning. She remembers saying, “Wow, I have dizziness.” And my friend said, “Is that something you get?” I said no.’ She sat for a moment and then passed. But a minute later, it came back a lot worse.”
Skyler’s friend noticed that the left side of her face was drooping and that her speech was equivocal – the classic signs of a stroke. He drove her to the nearest hospital 15 minutes away. Until now, she was blind in one eye and partially paralyzed on her left side.
Do you know the signs of a stroke?
Get treatment right away if you notice symptoms of stroke BE FAST.
Fast treatment for full recovery
Doctors resolved Skyler’s clot. They identified the source of the stroke (a tear in her neck artery). I left UVA Hospital 48 hours later. She did not need any physical or occupational therapy.
“I am so fortunate to have a friend whose symptoms are aware that something was seriously wrong. If I had been alone, I would have fallen asleep,” Skyler says. I didn’t know a young adult would have a stroke.”