Most people believe stroke is an affliction of the elderly. But that’s simply not true, said Carolyn Brockington, MD, director of the Stroke Center at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York and an American Stroke Association national spokesperson.

“Stroke incidence increases as we get older, but anyone can suffer a stroke at any age,” she said.

When young people have a stroke, it can have serious long-term consequences. A study in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that younger stroke survivors are at great risk of dying prematurely. According to the study, one in five stroke survivors will die within two decades. The death rate is even higher for those who suffer an ischemic stroke — a stroke caused by a blood clot to the brain.

If someone has a stroke, it’s recommended they receive treatment as soon as possible. Early intervention increases the likelihood of survival and decreases long-term disability. That’s why it’s important to know the signs of a stroke (FAST) and to seek help immediately, Dr. Brockington explained. Signs include face drooping, sudden numbness or weakness in arms, legs or face, speech difficulty/impairment, blurred vision, confusion, dizziness and headache.

“If someone comes into the ER, and we identify that they are having a stroke, there is a treatment we can give to reestablish blood flow,” Brockington said. “But it can only be given within a certain time period.” That period is usually just a few hours, so never hesitate to call 911—time is of the essence.”

—Elizabeth Moreno, Go Red for Women, American Heart Association

To learn the signs and symptoms of stroke, visit: