Strokes growing in the younger population

Published: May. 22, 2023 at 6:55 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Some people don’t even know when they are having a stroke. It can be something small like losing movement in your body or not being able to speak. If not treated immediately, you can die.

During National Stroke Awareness month, health experts are letting people know strokes don’t just happen when you get older. A stroke can happen to young adults too. Incidents have been increasing among the younger population over the years.

“Uncontrolled high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking is a big risk factor in young people, so we’re seeing a lot of those things that aren’t being well controlled that contribute a lot to increase in strokes,” said Aspirus nurse practitioner Dana Stuard.

Ross Landes is a 41-year-old father of five. He considered himself healthy until he recently had a stroke at home.

“I was working in my basement and I had my arms up and my arm just fell to my side... I kind of thought, ‘Well, was that a pinched nerve or was that something else?’ At about the same time, everything kind of started spinning,” said Landes.

There is one reason people have strokes that have nothing to do with smoking, high cholesterol, or less physical activity. It’s something that can only be detected with a scan. It’s called a PFO.

“A P-F-O is a patent foramen ovale, which is something that people are born with, and about 30% of the population is actually born with that and it typically doesn’t cause a problem until we see a younger patient that comes in with a stroke,” said Stuard.

After Ross was told he had a stroke, he was shocked. He has surgery coming up soon, so he is making lifestyle changes to get back to regular health.

“I’m going through treatment right now. There’s some medication to be on in the short term until the surgical date and then post-surgical. Tried to eat healthy, you know, be active to a certain extent and I guess after the stroke, it’s just a reaffirmation,” said Landes.

Stuard says to go see a doctor if you think anything may be off in your body mentally or physically. Once it is confirmed you have a PFO and had a stroke, treatment will happen and surgery could be discussed.