Why More Young People Are Having Strokes
Strokes kill more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer.
It is one of Australia's biggest causes of death and a leading cause of disability. The condition is so common, that someone had a stroke every nine minutes in 2017.
So, what is a stroke exactly?
"A stroke happens when blood supply to our most vital organ -- the brain -- is cut off by a blood clot or a burst artery, depriving it of oxygen," Stroke Foundation clinical council chair Professor Bruce Campbell told 10 daily.
"Without oxygen, brain cells start to die."
Stroke affects different parts of the brain in different ways, so the effects vary from person to person. Many experience paralysis on one side of the body, speech impairment and short-term memory loss.
It's often thought of as an 'old person problem' but that's far from the reality.
"Stroke does not discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any age -- even babies, children and healthy young adults can have strokes," Professor Campbell explained.
Actor Luke Perry, 52, sadly passed away one week after suffering what was reported as a "massive stroke".
Although it's not clear what sort of stroke Perry had, or its cause, unfortunately he is not alone -- about 20 strokes a day impact Australians who are under the age of 65, and still working and leading busy lives.
According to Professor Campbell, the number of younger people having a stroke is on the rise and it's largely due to lifestyle factors -- like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and diabetes.
Steering clear of stroke
The good news is more than 80 percent of strokes can be prevented -- and it doesn't involve anything too taxing.
Things like managing blood pressure and cholesterol, and sticking to a healthy diet -- like avoiding sugary drinks, and cutting salt intake -- plus regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking.
Artificially sweetened drinks, including fruit-based diet drinks as well as fizzy ones, are a big no-no. A study of more than 80,000 women, published in 2019 in the American Heart Association-produced journal Stroke, found drinking two or more diet drinks increased the risk of stroke by 23 percent.
A stroke happens fast, so it's important to know the signs so you can act quickly -- because the faster it is treated, the better the chance of a good outcome, no matter how old you are.
Experts use an acronym, F.A.S.T, to help people recognise signs of stroke:
Face -- Check their face. Has their mouth drooped?
Arms -- Can they lift both arms?
Speech -- Is their speech slurred? Do they understand you?
Time -- Time is critical. If you see any of these signs call 000 straight away.
Sunshine Coast man Matt Durham was just 17 years old and playing in an A-Grade golf semi-final when he suffered a massive stroke.
"Fourth hole, hitting my tee shot. Then I just felt funny and collapsed," he told 10 News First in December 2018.
Durham, now 24, needed part of his skull cut out to relieve the pressure on his brain, which left him unable to use the left side of his body.
Doctors were unsure if he'd survive, let alone recover, but after seven years of rehab and recovery he has once again picked up his clubs -- and is back on the very same course.
"I'm out here four or five times a week, playing competition, so I’m right back into it now," he said.
He’s got no qualms about going back to the fourth hole where he was struck down -- he just hates it because it's a par five.
"I've birdied it since I've been back … Got some revenge," he laughed.
Feature image: Getty.