DWTS Celeb Suffered Stroke at Age 37 and Still Feels Impact Today

When a reality star suffers a TIA at age 37, it reminds people to pay attention to their health and retirement planning. Being prepared and proactive will protect your health and prepare for the consequences of aging and declining health.

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DWTS Celeb Suffered Stroke at Age 37 and Still Feels Impact Today
4 Min Read September 27th, 2015 Updated:August 20th, 2022

When you think about strokes, you usually think of someone much older. That is not always the case. It was September of 2015 when reality star Kim Zolciak suffered a mini-stroke forcing her to be eliminated from the top-rated ABC-TV program "Dancing with the Stars.

Her fans and fans of the TV show were shocked by the news after the then-aged 37-year-old left the competition after suffering from a TIA - medically known as a transient ischemic attack.

The website TMZ reported that a blood clot caused by a previously unknown heart issue caused the star to lose feeling on one side, limiting her ability to speak for a short time.

Zolciak was interviewed live on the show via Skype (September 28, 2015). She said her doctors would not allow her to fly from her home in Atlanta to Los Angeles for the show. By the rules of the show, she was eliminated from the program.

Zolciak Still Impacted By Stroke

Last year on Instagram, Zolciak said she still thinks about her stroke every day.

I take blood thinner daily and probably always will! I have no physical limitations, but at times, I can't find the "right" word, or I completely lose my train of thought.

While many people think strokes and TIA's happen to just older adults, they can and do happen at all ages. A day before he turned 27, "Malcolm in the Middle" star Frankie Muniz also suffered a TIA in December 2012.

You Don't Have to be Old to Have a Stroke

Stroke has been noted to having an increased frequency in young adults without a clear cause.

Dr. Richard B. Libman, vice chair of neurology at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, N.Y.

Historically stroke has been thought to as a disease of the elderly with increased risk associated with those with preexistent atherosclerotic and heart disease.

A stroke, or "brain attack," happens when the blood supply to the brain is stopped or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and fills the spaces around other brain cells with blood. Brain cells die when they are damaged by bleeding in or around the brain or when they do not receive oxygen.

Younger People Ignore Stroke Symptoms 

What Zolciak and Muniz had -- a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or mini-stroke -- begins like a regular stroke, but then any noticeable symptoms or deficits disappear within an hour. 

Younger people often ignore the risk or the signs of a stroke, thinking they are too young. Rajan Gadhia, M.D., a vascular neurologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, says this is not the case.

The problem is, 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds think they're young and that these risk factors don't affect them, that they're unlikely to have high blood pressure, and that they're unlikely to have high cholesterol.

Neurologist Stephen Martino, M.D., of Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Ocean University Medical Center, says regular visits to the doctor can help reduce the risk of stroke for young people or people of any age.

Working with your primary-care physician to adopt healthy lifestyle choices or begin taking medication now may decrease your risk of stroke in the future, whether in your 40s, 60s or 80s.

Know the Signs of a Stroke

Signs you are having a stroke can include headaches, paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, and trouble with walking, speaking, understanding people, or seeing in one or both eyes, the Mayo Clinic reports.

The symptoms of a TIA and regular stroke are the same. Someone having a TIA or stroke might experience one or more of the following sudden symptoms:

• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

• Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

Call 911

If you or someone else has any of these symptoms, even briefly, call 911 or go to the hospital immediately. Strokes can cause the need for long-term health care, dementia, and death.

The risk factors for any type of stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. Read more about TIA risk factors at www.stroke.org/TIA.

Strokes Have Numerous Consequences

Adults who survive a stroke at a younger age have an alarmingly shortened life expectancy rate compared to the general population. A new study suggests that people who experience a stroke before they reach the age of 50 are more likely to pass away 20 years sooner than non-stroke adults.

Research shows that 10% of all stroke patients are under the age of 50 - but little data is available to shed any light on their life-long prognoses. However, Dutch researchers have found that the long-term mortality rate of adults who survived a stroke between the ages of 18 and 50 is significantly reduced.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 20% of under-50 stroke survivors passed away within a decade of their initial stroke. Researchers also found that men were more likely to die within 20 years of their initial stroke than young women.

Further, the study also says the risk of death after 20 years of a stroke increased by about 25% for TIA (aka mini-stroke) survivors, 27% for patients whose strokes were caused by a blood clot, and about 14% for hemorrhagic strokes.

Strokes Often Lead to Long-Term Health Care

The risk of stroke and TIA's impact on retirement planning is substantial as strokes are a leading reason for long-term health care. Much of that care is not covered by health insurance or Medicare since much of it is considered 'custodial' - meaning help with daily living activities or supervision due to memory loss.

Long-Term Care Insurance will pay for these costs, but a person must obtain coverage when they generally have good health. A history of stroke could make a person uninsurable.

Delaying obtaining coverage for long-term care reduces your ability to get a policy. Pre-existing health problems and older age increase the chance you will be declined for new coverage. This is a significant reason why many people today who purchase coverage are in their 40s and 50s as part of retirement planning.

Don't Delay on Obtaining LTC Insurance

Waiting until you have a health problem could be you have waited too late.

A significant share of the baby boomers are obese or disabled.

 Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance

Ignoring your health and symptoms when you are younger can substantially impact current and future health and well-being. You should be proactive with both your health and planning.

LTC Insurance can be an essential part of retirement planning. However, waiting until you have a TIA, for example, could make you unable to get coverage or make your coverage more expensive. Be sure to seek the advice of an experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who works with the top companies. The specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right company and find affordable coverage. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Your health can change at a moment's notice. While it is true that our health declines as we get older, sometimes health problems arise much younger. Have you been proactive with your health to avoid and delay some of the chronic health problems humans face? The other question is also important to consider. Are you prepared for future declining health and the consequences of aging and long-term health care?

People need long-term health care services due to a decline in their health, body, and mind. You will not know when this happens to you until it is too late to plan. 

With long-term health care costs skyrocketing nationwide, being prepared will protect income and assets and reduce the stress and anxiety that family caregivers often face.

Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to quality care in the setting you desire - including care in your home. You will protect savings and give loved ones the time to be family instead of caregivers.

Most people get their coverage in their 50s, but the LTC Tax is getting younger people's attention. Several states are considering taxing those who do not own qualified Long-Term Care Insurance policies. 

The tax is similar to one already implemented in the State of Washington. In that state, the tax impacts 100% of your earned income. The tax has made obtaining qualified Long-Term Care Insurance important to avoid the lifetime tax. 

Seek help from a qualified LTC Insurance specialist to assist you in finding affordable coverage. LTC Insurance is affordable - see how affordable - How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost? | LTC News.

Find a Specialist and Get Resources

Long-term care is very specialized, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist to help you find affordable coverage.

Find the cost of care where you live by using the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your State.

You might have questions about long-term health care planning, and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions. Find all the resources available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning.

Parents Need Care Now?

If your parent or parents need help now, be sure to get them quality care. LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our four guides -  

If they have LTC Insurance be sure to use it - now. Sometimes families wait. There is usually no good reason to wait.

LTC NEWS can help you process your LTC Insurance claim and even help with case management and finding quality care - all at no cost or obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News.

Older Adults Could Benefit from Reverse Mortgage

Learn more about the benefits of a reverse mortgage to either pay for necessary care now or to fund an LTC Insurance policy. by asking questions to an expert. 

Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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