The number of acute ischaemic stroke hospitalisations among middle-aged and older men and women fell between 1994 and 2007, but sharply increased among those under age 35 — including teens and children — according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2011.
Analysts at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reviewing hospitalisation data by age and gender, identified declining rates of 51% in girls 0-4 years and 25% in men and 29% in women over 45. However, the number of ischaemic stroke hospitalisations increased 51% in males between ages 15 and 34 during the period studied. It also increased 17% in females between 15 and 34.
Among children and teens, they found a 31% increase in boys between 5 to 14 years and a 36% increase among girls 5 to 14 years.
Among the younger middle-aged set, they found a 47% increase among men 35-44 and a 36% increase among women 35-44.
“I believe this is the first large study to report these findings, stratified by age and gender,” said Xin Tong, a health statistician with the CDC’s division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention in Atlanta, USA. “We cannot link anything in particular to the trend in younger patients, but I believe, the role of obesity and hypertension will prompt a big discussion. Unfortunately, right now we cannot speculate on the causes.”
The unit of analysis was hospitalisation, so researchers could not draw any firm connections or determine what factors are driving the increase in ischaemic stroke cases among the young.
Hospitals and physicians should be aware of the rising risk of stroke in young people, and the necessity to educate them about stroke symptoms, Tong said.
“Acute ischaemic stroke is currently considered something that mostly happens to older people, but awareness of rising rates in the young is important or else tPA and other important stroke treatment may be unnecessarily delayed in younger patients,” she said. The research group is pursuing additional investigation on this subject,Tong added.