1 In 3 U.S. Young Adults Don’t Know Stroke Symptoms, Study Finds

Over 30% of young adults—nearly one in three—did not know all five stroke symptoms. Specifically, 28.9% didn’t know all five symptoms, while 2.7% failed to recognize at least one symptom. The fact that nearly one third of young adults lack awareness of the top signs of stroke is important because as mentioned before, stroke incidence is up in young adults. 

In fact, stroke incidence and hospitalization rates are clearly diverging by age. In the past few decades, research shows that older adults (greater than 65 years of age) have experienced a 22 to 28% reduction in hospitalization for ischemic stroke, while a steep rise of almost 44% was seen in young adult (ages 25 to 44 years) strokes and hospitalizations. 

Nasir explains, “Our results show that novel strategies are required at the population level to increase symptom awareness among young adults, where we have found a higher-risk population with substantial variations in symptom recognition.” 

Important sociodemographic differences were also observed in this study, as certain groups demonstrated significantly less awareness of stroke symptoms. These included Hispanics, those not born in the U.S., and individuals with a lower level of education. Having five high-risk traits (being non-White, not born in the US, low income, uninsured, and high school education or less) increased one’s odds of not knowing all five stroke symptoms by almost four times.

Commenting on the inequities revealed by the study, Nasir said, “We hope that highlighting the continued impact of current health disparities may advance focused public health strategies and educational initiatives to increase awareness of and appropriate response to stroke symptoms.”

Lastly, an emergency medical services (EMS) response (i.e., calling 911 for an ambulance) was assessed in this study. Surprisingly, almost 3% of young adults said they would not call 911 if they saw someone experiencing signs of a stroke. 

Calling 911 is critically important, since rapid medical attention means treatment and possible recovery from a stroke. EMS personnel are trained to start the stroke treatment protocol on the way to the hospital, and then specialized teams take over upon arrival. As Nasir explains, “Time is critical for treating stroke. The earlier people recognize symptoms, the better their chances are to reduce long-term disability from stroke.”

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