With the news of actor Luke Perry’s death following a massive stroke, some questioned how someone so young could die from a stroke.
The 52-year-old Beverly Hills, 90210 actor was hospitalized last Wednesday and was “under observation” during the past week. His reps confirmed his death on Monday.
Dr. Michael Hill, director of the stroke unit for the Calgary Stroke Program, told Global News stroke is still “underappreciated” by the general public, and many don’t know how serious the illness is in young people.
WATCH: The death of actor Luke Perry have many talking about the risk of stroke. As Jenna Freeman reports, many young people are being treated for the potentially life-threatening condition in Calgary.
“Even in kids you see stroke in the first year of life,” he explained.
Seen as an older person’s disease
Education plays a huge role in stroke prevention, Hill added, as well as knowing your risk factors. Still seen as a disease that happens in older people, many are unaware of what the symptoms of stroke are.
Hill said people who suffer strokes are not able to dial 9-1-1 themselves or even ask for help — it is really up to a bystander or family member to be knowledgeable about the signs.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation, as well as similar foundations in the U.S. and U.K., follow the “FAST” approach when it comes to recognizing the signs of stroke. Hill said to look out for drooping faces, arms that can’t be raised and slurred speech and to react in time by calling 9-1-1.
“We have to recognize stroke is a nasty disease,” he continued. “One in seven people die from stroke and the more severe [the stroke and risks factors are] the more likely you are going to die.”
Although the causes of Perry’s stroke are unknown, Hill said the causes can be quite individual.
In young people, besides obvious risk factors like living a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and hypertension, other factors can include trauma to the arteries, related heart conditions, infections and drug use.
The foundation added that young women, in particular, were also at risk, and the causes of stroke at this age are still largely unknown. Some young women faced unique risks, including pregnancy and taking oral contraceptives, the foundation noted.
While 15 to 20 per cent of stroke causes are still unknown, Hill said, most healthcare professions can pinpoint a young person’s risk factors.
Stroke rates are on the rise in Canada
A 2017 report from the foundation found stroke rates in younger adults in Canada were rising faster than in seniors.
Rates increased by 11 per cent in Canadians between the ages of 20 and 59 from 2006 to 2015. The increase was tied to common risk factors like eating more processed food, living a stressful life and high rates of diabetes and obesity.
“There’s a serious lack of awareness of stroke in anybody younger than 70. The public perception has always been seeing a stroke in someone older but that’s changing and it’s starting to happen younger. It even happens in babies and people don’t understand that,” Dr. Patrice Lindsay, director of stroke at Heart & Stroke, previously told Global News.
“That misconception leads to challenges not just in the health-care system, but with community support available to patients, family and parents,” she continued. “It causes challenges if people can’t get rehabilitation that’s age-appropriate to those who are going back to work or raising families. That’s one of the biggest findings — we aren’t prepared for these people.”
Hill said besides educating yourself on symptoms and risk factors, Canadians should also know that strokes can be treated and that they can lower their risks.
“Keep active, eat a sensible diet and you have to see your physician and find out if you have known risk factors. Have your blood pressure measured, see if you’re diabetic. These are really simple things to do that all family doctors around the country will help you understand.”
— With files from Carmen Chai