A new study reported that young adults that suffered strokes were often smokers or had abused drugs and alcohol in their lifetime.
Conducted in Ohio and Kentucky, the findings indicated that long term damage to the heart, blood, and arteries resulted from heavy drug use or drinking and put substance abusers at a higher than average risk earlier in life.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close to 800,000
people in the United States have a stroke every year, and strokes are the most
common cause of serious long-term disability. One study of 2007 data found that
almost five percent of people who had a stroke that year were between ages 18
The current study included people from Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
who'd had a stroke before they hit 55.
Dr. Brett Kissela from the
University of Cincinnati and his colleagues reviewed medical charts for blood or
urine test results or other records of substance abuse for close to 1,200 stroke
In 2005, the most recent year covered, just over half of
younger adults who suffered a stroke were smokers at the time, and one in five
used illicit drugs, including marijuana and cocaine. Thirteen percent of people
had used drugs or alcohol within 24 hours of their stroke, according to findings
published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
"The rate of
substance abuse, particularly illicit drug abuse, is almost certainly an
underestimate because toxicology screens were not obtained on all patients,"
said Dr. Steven Kittner, a professor of neurology at the University of Maryland
School of Medicine in Baltimore who also wasn't part of the research
"It's certainly underreported," he told Reuters Health.
rate of smoking, drug use and alcohol abuse - defined as three or more drinks
per day - seemed to increase among stroke patients between the mid-1990s and the
But Kissela and his team said they can't be sure whether more
people were actually using those substances or doctors were just getting better
at testing for and recording drug abuse.
The study also can't prove that
patients' drug or alcohol use directly contributed to their strokes. It's
possible, for example, that people who abuse drugs also see their doctors less
often or engage in other risky behaviors that increase their chance of stroke,
He said the study emphasizes the importance of
learning and quickly recognizing the signs of a stroke - such as weakness on one
side of the body and dizziness - even for young people. Some treatments can only
be used during a short "window of opportunity" after the stroke.
patients all the time who have symptoms that are classic for a stroke and
those symptoms are not recognized as being stroke symptoms because of the idea
that, â€˜Well, that's something that happens only to older people,'" he
Source: The Chicago Tribune