Younger adults who suffered a stroke were often smokers or had abused drugs or alcohol, according to a U.S. study that looked at over 1,000 patients.
Strokes are often thought of as a condition of the elderly, but researchers said long-term changes in the heart, arteries or and blood as a result of drug abuse or heavy drinking may put users at higher-than-average risk earlier in life.
“Substance abuse is common in young adults experiencing a stroke,” wrote lead researcher Brett Kissela from the University of Cincinnati in the journal Stroke.
“Patients aged younger than 55 years who experience a stroke should be routinely screened and counseled regarding substance abuse.”
It’s also possible that some drugs, particularly cocaine and methamphetamines, may trigger a stroke more immediately, according to S. Andrew Josephson, a neurologist from the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied drug use and stroke but was not involved in the study.
“We know that even with vascular risk factors that are prevalent – smoking, high blood pressure… most people still don’t have a stroke until they’re older,” he added.
“When a young person has a stroke, it is probably much more likely that the cause of their stroke is something other than traditional risk factors.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and they are the most common cause of serious long-term disability. One study of 2007 data found that almost five percent of people who had a stroke that year were between ages 18 and 44.
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