Number of stroke patients under 50 is increasing dramatically
POSTED: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 9:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, May 2, 2012 - 9:04am
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Last September changed 34 year old Jesse Moore's life.
"I kind of remember my right arm starting to go numb. I had had problems with my back, and so I thought, oh well, it is probably just a problem with my back."
Jesse was about to leave his in-laws after a playdate for his daughter.
His numb arm was making it difficult to buckle her in.
"My sister-in-law, Jessica came back there and was like, are you okay? Well, yea, I think so? But, that was just in my head because when I looked at her and tried to talk, all that came out was," he recalls.
Exactly where he began experiencing symptoms just may have saved his life.
His mother-in-law is a former nurse with years of specializing in stroke care.
She quickly picked up on the symptoms and called 911.
"It was quite clear from his symptoms that he was having a stroke."
Dr. James Walker says Jesse's case, while still rare, is a part of a growing trend.
"Over the course of the last two years, we have seen, at least here at Via Christi, almost double the number of stroke victims under the age of 50," he says.
In 2007, Via Christi Hospital in Wichita, Kansas saw 600 stroke patients, and of those, 27 were younger than 45.
It is far younger than the typical stroke patient, who is 60 or older.
Last year, those numbers nearly doubled to 47 younger patients out of 662 total stroke cases.
A stroke is usually the last thing that comes to mind when a younger person experiences symptoms like a drooping face or numbness.
It never occurred to Jesse that that's what was happening to him.
"Stroke in young people is relatively rare compared to older population, people typically think of stroke as being a disease of old people," said Dr. Calvin Olmstead, the Wesley Stroke Unit Director.
That's a big reason Jesse is sharing his story spreading awareness that strokes can affect younger people, and the sooner it's treated the better the prognosis.
"As time progresses, brain tissue dies, time is brain, usually, if you can get here within the first six hours, something can be considered," said Dr. Howard Chang.
The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen provided by blood flow.
When a clot blocks that flow and your brain stops getting oxygen, you start losing brain cells.
That's why every minute counts.
"We have a very small window of opportunity for treating stroke in any stroke patient, but in particular, in those young patients because they tend to ignore it too long," said Dr. Walker.
Doctors warn the symptoms aren't always that clear, and for healthy, young people they can easily be misdiagnosed.
Obesity, hypertension, and diabetes are the usual risk factors for stroke victims, but some are less obvious like the hole in Jesse's heart that prompted his stroke.
He spent five days in the ICU.
The quick treatment and follow-up care has allowed Jesse to regain his memory and mobility.
Now, he's just thankful he's still here and able to keep up with his daughter.
"I feel like I got a second chance."