Stroke used to be viewed as an affliction of old age; it was something that happened to your granny or granddad. However, latest figures(1) show that at least 1 in 4 strokes are happening to people of working age and younger, and this figure is rising. It’s a fact that the number of people having strokes aged 20 to 64 increased by 25% from 1990 to 2010 worldwide. Around 400 children per year also have a stroke too.
What is a stroke?
Until it happens to somebody they know, many people are still uncertain about what a ‘stroke’ actually is. Strokes happen when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This damages or destroys parts of the brain. There are two main types of stroke:
‘Ischaemic’ strokes are the most common. This is when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked. This starves that area of oxygen, killing or damaging the brain cells there. Arteries supplying the brain with blood can be blocked by blood clots, fat globules or air bubbles in the blood stream. About 85% of strokes are ischaemic strokes.
‘Haemorrhagic’ strokes occur when an artery in or on the surface of the brain bursts and starts bleeding. This kills or damages brain cells in that region. Around 15% of strokes are haemorrhagic strokes.
You may also have heard of Transient Ischaemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini strokes which can be a warning sign that you’re at risk of having a stroke, and you may need to make changes to your lifestyle.
Risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure or cholesterol
- Irregular heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation)
- Unhealthy diet or high alcohol intake
- Previous stroke or TIA, or family history of stroke
Approximately 1 in 3 stroke survivors go on to make a full recovery. For the rest, it depends on how severe the stroke was and which parts of the brain were affected. Speech and communication problems (aphasia) affect 1 in 3 stroke survivors. Many also suffer paralysis or weakness down one side of the body. However not all problems are physical. Stroke survivors often suffer from neurological fatigue which is far more extreme than normal tiredness and can be absolutely debilitating in the early stages of recovery. Memory issues and problems with processing information are also common and can lead to a loss of confidence. Depression is also a common occurrence and talking therapies and medication as appropriate can be really helpful. With determination and the right support, symptoms can improve over time and recovery can go on for many years.
For younger people with their whole lives ahead of them, the effects of stroke can be devastating. They may be still at school, starting university, entering the workplace for the first time, or trying hard to return to their previous job or retrain in order to pay the mortgage and household bills. Depending on how severe the stroke is, not everybody will be able to return to work and some families find themselves having to claim benefits for the first time and adjust to a lower standard of living. Volunteering may also replace working as part of a daily routine.
If you or your family have been affected by stroke at a young age, help is available. Call Different Strokes on 01908 317618 or 0845 130 7172, or visit our website at www.differentstrokes.co.uk