Stroke is defined as a sudden, localized disruption in blood flow through parts of the brain. Stroke is not a single disease. Rather it is a syndrome, an umbrella of symptoms caused by a variety of factors.
The primary mechanism of blood flow disruption is either ischemic through a blood clot or an embolism, or haemorrhagic via rupture of blood vessels. About 80% of strokes are ischemic and 20% are haemorrhagic.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the average age for men to have a stroke is 74 whereas the average age for women to have a stroke is 80. In Scotland, the average age for men is 71 and the average age for women is 76.
Between 2007 and 2016, data from the Public Health England (PHE) showed that the average age for men to have a stroke in England fell from 71 to 68 and from 75 to 73 for women. Over the same period, the number of first-time stroke sufferers aged 40 to 69 rose from 33% to 38%.
The PHE said the drop in the average age of first-stroke victims was because of a fall in the proportion of stroke in individuals over 70. This appeared to be due to improved healthcare for the elderly and screen checks which help monitor stroke risk factors. The PHE also urged more people to be aware of the symptoms.
Symptoms of stroke include weakness, headache, paralysis or numbness, inability to speak, walk or stand and the loss of balance and coordination of motion. Sudden headache, vomiting and coma may also occur. Patients may also exhibit left or right gaze preference, a sign of large vessel stroke.
Examples of people under 40 who suffered a stroke include Rob Goodwin, a 48 year old cyclist who suffered a stroke in 2016 while getting dressed. Mr Goodwin had displayed no risk factors associated with stroke and was able to receive treatment within 40 minutes of his stroke thanks to his partner recognising his symptoms and his stepdaughter calling 999.
Philippa Haslehurst, from Chingford, North London, was 47 when she suffered a major stroke in 2014, caused by a hole in her heart. She said it could have killed her were it not for her teenage daughter Beth, who recognised her symptoms, enabling her mother to receive treatment quickly.
Another example is Simon Allison from Dundee who suffered two strokes at the age of 40 while he was running with his friend Graham.
“A couple of miles in, Graham just turned to me and said I was incoherent, not making any sense at all. I carried on running but he then noticed that one side of my face had started to droop so said I should get myself to hospital.”
Simon had a mini stroke and the doctors kept him in for observation over the weekend during which he suffered a massive stroke. Simon had a swift recovery thanks to the clot-busting drugs the doctors gave him.
It is important to know the signs of stroke and bear in mind that individuals under the age of 70 can also have strokes. Signs to look out for include the individual being unable to smile and having their face fallen over to one side, being unable to raise their arms and keep them there and having slurred speech. If the individual displays these signs then call 999.
Gallagher, P. (2018). 'I was 40 and fit so never thought about stroke - then I had one'. iNews. Retrieved 1 February 2018, from https://inews.co.uk/news/health/i-40-fit-healthy-never-thought-stroke-i-one-nearly-died/
Therrien, A. (2018). Stroke patients 'getting younger'. BBC News. Retrieved 1 February 2018, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42871861