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Are you too young for a stroke?

17th March 2008

Most people believe they are not old enough to be in danger of having a stroke, although 25% happen to those under 65.

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In the last two weeks the television news presenter Carol Barnes died from a stroke aged 63 and the actress Samantha Morton revealed she had suffered one in 2006, aged 31.

Helen Webb, spokesperson for the Stroke Association said: "1,000 people every year who have strokes are under 30." She added that it is thought "up to" 40% of strokes could be prevented. Strokes cause more deaths in women than breast cancer.

A stroke happens when blood going to the brain is halted or interfered with, because of a block or leak in a blood vessel.

Someone who has had a stroke can be paralysed, have speech problems, experience sight damage and have difficulty swallowing.

Factors which increase the risk of stroke include having a particular genetic or geographic heritage, drinking too much and not taking enough exercise.

"A recent MORI poll showed that 50% of the population didn't know what a stroke was - they thought it was a heart attack," says Professor Charles Woolfe, a specialist in stroke awareness and protection at Kings College London.

Stroke can also be caused by an accident or a type of neck movement. An extremely rare cause is Beauty Parlour Stroke Syndrome (BPSS). This is where a person's neck is extended back into a basin to have their hair washed and can lead to a stroke.

Changes in lifestyle can help to prevent the risk of stroke. "Research shows that 70% of strokes are down to high blood pressure," said Professor Woolfe. "The trouble is, you don't know until you get it checked whether it's high or not."

He recommended that people have their blood pressure checked every time they visited their doctor.

 

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