Strokes in younger adults are increasing

Posted at 3:18 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-13 18:29:16-04

You may be surprised, but doctors are seeing more and more young people suffering from strokes.

According to a recent analysis by the Journal of the American Medical Association, "stroke hospitalization rates from 2003 to 2012 significantly increased for acute ischemic stroke hospitalization rates among men (41.5%) and women (30%) aged 35 to 44 years, with a near doubling of the prevalence of three or more of five common stroke risk factors among both men and women aged 18 to 64 years hospitalized for acute ischemic stroke."

“I laid right there and I prayed and prayed to get me back upstairs and back to my children," Shawna Robertson said.

In February, Robertson was laying in St. Luke’s Neuro ICU room.

“It's kind of nervous and nerve wracking, I laid on that bed for approximately four and a half hours,” Robertson said.

She says she had a kink in her neck and tried to roll it out.

“Within about 15 to 30 seconds, I lost vision in my right eye and the whole right side of my body had went completely numb and I started to slump,” Robertson said.

That’s when Robertson’s 11-year-old daughter, Kilee Barrett, called 911.

“I asked her if she was okay and she told me she wasn't okay, so I sat there with her for like ten, 20 seconds and then she started falling, and so I called the police off of her phone,” Barrett said. “When she clenched her hands up it made me feel uncomfortable and it was just really uncomfortable to see my mom do that kind of stuff.”

Robertson had a slice in her artery, causing a clot in her brain and a stroke. Robertson is now on blood thinners.

“My life as I once knew it, I don't know anymore,” she said. “Riding roller coasters and fun things with my kids, I can't do anymore.”

She’s only 28 years old.

“We certainly see more strokes in young people than I'd like to,” Dr. Katlin Olds with St. Luke’s Stroke Program said. “About ten percent of ischemic strokes occur in folks of under the age of 50 and that's a pretty big amount if you think about a stroke happening every 40 seconds.”

Dr. Olds says in young patients, physicians look at cardiac rhythms, hereditary heart problems, past injuries and larger risk factors.

"Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, are things we are seeing in younger people as well,” Dr. Olds said. “But in a case like Shawna's, one of the first things we're looking for is the arteries in the neck that feed the brain.”

A mother of three, Robertson said this has changed her life, but with the quick action her daughter took, Robertson is here to share her story.

“She’s my best friend,” Barrett said.

“If it wasn’t for her, I may not be here right now,” Robertson said. "I just encourage people to think twice before popping their neck."

Here are signs to look out for if you think someone may be having a stroke: Think F.A.S.T.: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech Difficulty, and Time to call 911.