Stroke in Young People: Why It Happens, How to Prevent It

Stroke is defined as a medical condition wherein the blood vessel ruptures or bleeds, or there’s a blockage in the blood supply to the brain. Figures show that stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US where more than 140,000 people each year. On the other hand, 795,000 people suffer a stroke. The risk of stroke increases with age which is why this cardiovascular event is usually something older adults experience. Although uncommon, young people can also have a stroke.

When experienced in younger years stroke can have a serious impact on a person’s functioning and socioeconomic aspect of life. Read to learn more about the causes and prevention of stroke in young adults.

Causes and warning signs

It’s not that common to have a stroke in your 20s, but it’s possible. Numbers show that young people comprise about 10% to 15% of all stroke patients. Consequences of stroke among the younger population are severe if we bear in mind an affected patient is out of work for quite some time and is unable to perform at the optimal level. This can have a major impact on their career, financial situation, and other aspects of life. Learning about stroke in younger population is vital even though it may seem unnecessary at this point.

Types of stroke

While we tend to assume all stroke cases are the same the reality is entirely different. Not all cases are equal. There are different types of stroke, such as:

  • Ischemic stroke – occurs due to an occlusion in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain; the most common type of stroke
  • Hemorrhagic stroke – happens when a blood vessel ruptures mainly due to uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Transient ischemic attack  – caused by a temporary clot, usually referred to as “mini-stroke.”

Causes of stroke in young people

Even though young people can get a stroke just like older adults causes behind this serious health event are different. The main cause of stroke in older persons is atherosclerosis or buildup of plaque in blood vessels. The accumulation of plaque leads to hardening of blood vessels and impairs circulation thus leaving you at a higher risk of not only stroke but heart attack too. Having a stroke at a young age can occur due to metabolic risk factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, diabetes, and other factors that generally do lead to atherosclerosis. That being said, other factors play a role as well.

Stroke in young people is associated with risk factors such as inflammatory arteritis, arterial dissection, reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome, cardiomyopathy, and other problems that affect blood vessels and circulation. Besides these, other factors that play a role in stroke risk in young adults include:

  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Infections
  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Genetics
  • Anti-hypertensive medications
  • Migraine
  • Birth control pills
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight or obese

Unfortunately, in 25% to 35% of young people, an exact cause of stroke cannot be identified. A lot more research is necessary to uncover all the reasons young people get a stroke. Despite the fact that stroke has a serious impact on a patient’s health and socioeconomic aspect of life young adults tend to recover better from stroke than older patients, if no other health problems are present that might interfere with the recovery.

Warning signs

Due to the fact that loss of blood flow to the brain damages its tissues symptoms of stroke manifest themselves in the body parts that are controlled by damaged parts of your brain. Signs and symptoms of stroke include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Impaired balance
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness or weakness in arm, leg, face, particularly on one side of the body
  • Paralysis
  • Slurring speech
  • A sudden and severe headache without a known cause
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble walking
  • Vision problems

If you or someone else have symptoms of stroke make sure you call 911 immediately. The timely reaction is the best way to treat stroke before severe complications occur, and it’s also vital for complete recovery. The best way to spot symptoms of stroke is to remember the FAST method which involves the primary signs of this cardiovascular event:

  • Face dropping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911


Stroke isn’t a normal part of life, even in older adults. It is a problem that, in many cases, we can prevent. You shouldn’t wait to come to a certain age and decide you’ll start working on avoiding stroke then. It’s never too early (or too late) to work on your health. Below, you can see some useful prevention tips to decrease the risk of stroke in young adults:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Avoid eating trans fats, sugar-laden foods, and other unhealthy foods
  • Keep weight in a healthy range
  • Exercise regularly and be more active altogether
  • Control your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels
  • If you have some health problem be proactive about it and keep it under control
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs, and smoking
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage stress

Bottom line

Even though stroke is a problem, we tend to connect to older people the reality is that young people can have it too. Causes behind stroke in young persons are numerous, and for a certain percentage of them, it’s not quite clear why they had a stroke in the first place. Your lifestyle plays a huge role in stroke risk which is why it’s vital to make healthy choices. Make sure you remember FAST and react promptly if warning signs appear in you or someone in your surroundings.