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Nearly 30 percent of young adults don't know common stroke symptoms, study finds

With more young people affected by the condition, experts want to be sure consumers know the signs

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A new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association found that nearly 30 percent of consumers under the age of 45 don’t know the most common signs of a stroke. 

These findings are concerning primarily because timing is imperative for stroke patients. The faster medical assistance is received, the better the outcomes. 

“While the medical community has made significant improvements to reduce the severity and complications of strokes with early interventions, these efforts are of limited value if patients do not recognize the stroke symptoms,” said researcher Dr. Khurram Nasir. “Time is critical for treating stroke. The earlier people recognize symptoms, the better their chances are to reduce long-term disability from stroke.” 

Identifying symptoms

To get a baseline of young adults’ understanding of stroke symptoms, the researchers analyzed over 9,800 responses to the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, all from respondents under the age of 45. Participants were shown symptoms and they had to determine whether or not they were associated with strokes. 

Ultimately, roughly 30 percent of the participants couldn’t identify the five most common symptoms that are indicative of a stroke, and nearly three percent of the participants couldn’t identify any of the signs linked with a stroke. 

“With the growing risk of stroke among younger adults in the U.S., our study sheds light on particularly vulnerable individuals and communities that already experience a disproportionately greater burden of stroke and cardiovascular risk factors, as well as reduced access to health care services,” Dr. Nasir said. 

Five most common symptoms

The five most common stroke symptoms are: 

  • Trouble seeing;

  • Confusion or trouble speaking;

  • Severe headache; 

  • Numbness of the face, arm, or legs, and; 

  • Difficulty walking or loss of balance. 

Knowing the symptoms is crucial, and so is knowing when it’s time for professional medical assistance. To help consumers know when it’s time to call an ambulance, the researchers referred to the F.A.S.T. acronym, which stands for: face drooping, arm weakness, speech slurred, time to call 911. 

Because immediate medical intervention gives patients the best chances of fully recovering from a stroke, it’s important that consumers know the signs and remember F.A.S.T., as it could be life-saving. 

“With proper, timely medical attention, stroke is largely treatable,” said researcher Dr. Mitchell S.V. Elkind. “The faster you are treated, the more likely you are to minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Calling 9-1-1 is critical because trained EMS personnel can start the care protocol en route to the hospital and have specialized teams standing by, ready at the hospital to administer the most appropriate treatment immediately.” 

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