Dawne Gee is a TV news anchor for Louisville TV station WAVE 3. Her recent stroke live during a newscast has placed the issue of strokes happening at younger ages front and center. Dawne, who is now in rehab, will not know for some time the impact the stroke will have on independence. Strokes, once thought to be something that just impacted older people are now happening at younger ages. This means more younger people will end up requiring Long Term Care with help with their normal activities of daily living.
A recent article in the New York Times reports that researchers at Rutgers University used data from the New Jersey Department of Health on more than 227,000 hospitalizations for stroke from 1995 through 2014, calculating incidence by age over five-year periods. The findings appeared in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
While strokes are still much more common in older people, the incidence rates for strokes in younger people have increase sharply. Compared with the 1995-99 period, the rate of stroke in 2010-14 increased by 147 percent in people 35 to 39, by 101 percent in people 40 to 44, by 68 percent in those 45 to 49, and by 23 percent in the 50 to 54 group.
"This is still a disease of the old, but a surprisingly higher proportion of younger patients are having strokes, and it's getting worse over time," says researcher Brett Kissela, MD, professor and vice chair of neurology at the University of Cincinnati.
The lead author of the research report, Dr. Joel N. Swerdel, said that increasing obesity and diabetes in younger people are probably involved.
“For a person 30 to 50, the good news is you ain’t dead yet,” he said. “With behavioral changes, changing diet, increasing exercise, there’s still hope for you. Behavioral change is hard, but this study is an early warning sign.”
The lack of adherence to prescribed treatment, such as taking medicine to control blood-pressure, and a significant increase in obesity and the prevalence of diabetes, both risk factors of cardiovascular disease, are factors in the increased stroke risk.
The first global analysis of the problem from a study in 2013 said strokes are increasingly hitting younger people worldwide and the incidence of the crippling condition may double by 2030.
Most strokes occur when a clot blocks the blood supply to the brain. Patients often experience symptoms including a droopy face, the inability to lift their arms and garbled speech. If not treated quickly, patients can be left with long-term side effects, including speech and memory problems, paralysis and the loss of some vision.
GenXer’s probably never expected to worry about strokes, but they face several health issues that were much for common for their older Boomer counterparts. An increasing number of younger people also require Long Term Care as well. Some of this is due to health issues at younger ages but some of this is due to people surviving health events and accidents at younger ages due to advances in medical science.
Younger people, especially GenXer’s, are encouraged to pay close attention to their health. In addition, they are encouraged to plan for Long Term Care as part of their future retirement plan. The US Department of Health and Human Services website: www.longtermcare.gov, has information on LTC planning. A video they produced suggests the path to planning is best started when younger as health is generally better and the most affordable options are available.
Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) a national consumer advocacy group, says increased public understanding of the importance of planning prior to retirement and lower costs available at younger ages are factors why LTC planning happens well before retirement.