Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Strokes Can Happen to Young People, Too

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Strokes Can Happen to Young People, Too

Article excerpt

After back-and-forth visits to the doctor with what her parents and doctors believed was an ear infection, Shana Pollack, then 10 months old, continued to lie awake in her Glen Rock home, crying in agony each night.

But soon her body went limp and she was unable to move. Her parents, Judi and Richard Pollack, knew something was terribly wrong. They rushed her back to the hospital.

The diagnosis: stroke.

"No one saw it coming at that age," said Pollack, today 22. "It came out of basically nowhere. I was very healthy."

Her experience, however, is a powerful reminder that strokes, which occur when blood to the brain is somehow impeded, are occurring more and more to young people. It isn't just an "old people" problem.

In fact, The University Hospital in Newark reported that each year roughly 28 percent of people who suffer a stroke are under age 65.

"Probably about one-third of the patients that we see are younger than 65," said Dr. Daniel Walzman, chief of endovascular neurosurgery at Hackensack University Medical Center.

"The older you get, the more at risk you are," Walzman said. "However, there are babies that can have strokes. We've seen teenagers and 20-year-olds for various types of strokes. The reasons for strokes change depending on age."

In older patients, Walzman explained, strokes are usually caused by cardiac problems while in young patients, they are usually caused by traumatic injury or illness. However, Walzman attributes much of the increase of strokes among young Americans to how they live and eat: They are eating more processed foods and salty foods and they're not exercising enough. As a result, problems that used to develop in older adults such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, experts are now seeing in people as young as 15.

Still, there are plenty of strokes that can't be prevented, such as a carotid artery dissection, which can occur spontaneously or because of trauma to the body.

"Some strokes occur for random reasons, especially in younger patients," Walzman said. "You can't really screen for some of them, like moyamoya disease [a disease in which certain arteries in the brain are constricted and blood flow is blocked, causing clots]. …

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