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Signs of stroke are unfamiliar to young adults

The sooner people call for help after stroke symptoms — sudden numbness or weakness, especially on one side; trouble speaking or confusion; sudden trouble with eyesight; sudden trouble walking or dizziness; and sudden, severe headache with no known cause — the higher the likelihood the patient will survive.

A group of physicians from across the country analyzed data from the 2017 National Health Interview Survey, which monitors the health of the U.S. population using household interviews. The 9,844 people interviewed statistically represent about 107 million young adults nationwide. Nearly 29 percent of them were not aware of all stroke symptoms, and 2.7 percent could not name a single symptom.

The study, published in the journal Stroke, shows associations between age, education level and ethnicity and the likelihood a young adult will know stroke symptoms. Hispanic adults were about two times as likely to be unaware of any stroke symptoms compared to non-Hispanic participants, and people with a high school education or lower were almost three times as likely. Both groups are more vulnerable to strokes than more highly educated or White adults.

The survey also asked participants if they would call 911 or contact emergency services if they saw stroke symptoms in themselves or another person. People in the lowest-income groups were less likely to say yes, and the researchers estimate that about 3 million young adults would probably not call.

Young people’s likelihood of stroke has risen sharply in recent decades. Even as stroke incidence rates fell across the U.S. population from 2000 to 2010, the rate among young adults rose 43.8 percent. The study’s authors say it’s time for more focused initiatives and educational campaigns to spread the word about stroke.

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