According to new research that was published in “Stroke,”, approximately 30% of adults below age 45 in the United States don’t know the five most common stroke symptoms. Strokes are the main cause of disability in the country as well as the fifth leading cause of death. Between 10% to 15% of the 795,000 individuals who suffer a stroke are young people, aged between 18 and 45, so recognizing the signs is vital. Other recent studies suggest that while stroke incidence is decreasing among the general population, its incidence and hospitalizations have grown by more than 40% in young people in the last few decades.
Khurram Nasir, the study’s author, stated that despite the medical community making significant strides to decrease the severity of stroke complications with early intervention, failure to recognize stroke symptoms by patients made these efforts futile. He added that time is essential for the treatment of a stroke as the earlier individuals recognized symptoms, the better chance they had of decreasing long-term disability from stroke.
Nassir and his colleagues analyzed responses to the 2017 National Health Interview Survey to evaluate how well the general population understood the common symptoms of stroke. The annual survey had asked several questions about stroke, including how to identify the five most common symptoms of stroke, which the survey stated to be:
- Severe headache
- Trouble seeing in both eyes or one eye
- Dizziness, loss of balance or difficulty walking
- Trouble speaking/confusion
- Numbness of leg/arm/face
The researchers analyzed the responses of 9,844 young people, all under 45 years of age, who were used to statistically represent 107.2 million young adults in the American population. The average age of the young people who responded was determined to be 31, with 62.2% of those respondents being non-Hispanic and 50% were women.
The researchers discovered that:
i. Young people who had a lower education level or a high school diploma were almost three times as likely to not know any stroke symptom as compared to young adults who had higher education levels
ii. In comparison with non-Hispanics, Hispanic adults as well as other adults who were not born in the United States were almost twice as likely to be unaware of the common symptoms of a stroke
iii. Approximately 3% of the survey respondents, which is about 3 million young people, were unaware of any symptoms of a stroke
iv. About one in three survey respondents was unaware of all five of the most common symptoms of a stroke
The researchers also discovered that roughly 3% of the young people surveyed wouldn’t contact emergency medical services if they recognized and witnessed someone experiencing symptoms of a stroke.
The American Stroke Association/American Heart Association recommends the use of the acronym FAST to recognize the signs of a stroke and know when to call for emergency medical services. The words stand for the following:
- Face drooping
- Arm weakness
- Slurred speech
- Time to call emergency services; dial 911
Nassir noted that the use of the acronym was aimed at increasing public recognition of the common symptoms of a stroke and emphasize the urgency to address present-day health inequities directly using multidisciplinary and tailored public health approaches.
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