CINCINNATI—A recently published study highlighting stroke in
younger populations attracted worldwide media attention. Still, the University
of Cincinnati (UC) professor of neurology who led the research notes that more
should be done to make the public aware of stroke and the critical importance
of fast treatment.
"The awareness of stroke is exceedingly low in the general
public, especially among those at highest risk,” says Brett Kissela, MD, vice
chair of the neurology department at the UC College of Medicine and a member of
the UC Neuroscience Institute, a center of excellence within UC Health.
The study led by Kissela, funded by the National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke within the National Institutes of Health and
published in Oct. 23, 2012, issue of the journal Neurology, showed that in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky the
proportion of all first strokes under age 45 rose to 7.3 percent in 2005 from
4.5 percent in 1993-94 and 5.5 percent in 1999.
Additionally, in 1993-94 the average age of first stroke in
the region was 71.3 years. That number dropped to 70.9 in 1999 and 68.4 by
2005. (Data analysis from 2010 is under way, Kissela says.)
In another recent study led by Kissela, using the same
population base as the study on stroke in the young, researchers found that
younger adults who suffered a stroke were often smokers or had abused drugs or
alcohol. The study was published online ahead of print in Stroke, an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA)
"Certainly we hope that media attention around these studies
will raise awareness among young people and make them more likely to go to the
doctor to check for risk factors that can be modified, such as hypertension and
obesity,” Kissela says. "Young people are far less likely to go to a health
care provider than older individuals.
"Furthermore, health care providers must also be aware that
stroke can occur in the young so that they will take appropriate action in
searching for and modifying risk factors, and possibly improving diagnosis of
stroke in what remain an unexpected event.”
Kissela notes that the AHA/ASA has put a priority on
publicizing the warning signs of stroke, which can be summarized by the
mnemonic device FAST: Face drooping; Arm weakness; Speech difficulty; and Time
to call 911.
Time is of the essence, Kissela says, because treatment (the
clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA) is available that can
reverse the effects of acute ischemic stroke (caused by a blood clot), but it
can only be given within three hours of stroke onset.
Kissela is a member of the UC Stroke Team, a group of
UC physicians and health professionals dedicated to providing rapid diagnosis
and treatment of stroke patients. The team serves as a community resource to all
Greater Cincinnati hospitals, while managing the stroke treatment program at
University of Cincinnati Medical Center.
The UC neurology department’s stroke research program was
the first to test and explore the use of tPA and continues to serve a leading
role in both clinical and basic research for stroke and many other neurological
conditions, including epilepsy, cognitive disorders, Parkinson’s disease and
movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, neuromuscular disorders and headache.
"We need to continue
to study this problem,” Kissela says of stroke in the young. "Further research
will be necessary to see what interventions might have the highest impact.”