Strokes in young people are on the rise

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LITTLETON, Colo. -- Strokes in young people are increasing at an alarming rate, and unfortunately 70 percent of young Americans are not familiar with stroke symptoms.

At the Rocky Mountain Stroke Center in Littleton, people of all ages are able to get different therapies when their insurance benefits have run out.

Joanne Heim is there every week.  The mother of two, living in Highlands Ranch, was just 38 years old when she had a massive stroke.

She was running on her treadmill when she got the worst headache of her life.  “It felt like someone unzipped a zipper on my head, and dumped ice water down my head and neck,” Heim said.

She collapsed having seizures and woke up in the hospital weeks later.  “Because the stroke was on the right side of my brain, my left side was paralyzed,” she said.

Over time, Joanne learned to walk again, but she was stunned that someone in her 30’s could have a stroke.  “Strokes are things that kill your grandparents.  They don’t happen to young mothers, especially young mothers who are healthy, and strong, and ran five miles every single day,” Heim said.

But research shows that strokes can occur at any age.  “The past ten years the incident of stroke in the 20 to 50 year olds has increased by 44 percent,” said Jan Hormuth, the board president at the Rocky Mountain Stroke Center.  “These are younger people.  This is not just grandma’s disease anymore,” she said.

Hormuth says it’s important to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and to act quickly no matter your age.  Some symptoms include a droopy face, slurred speech, sudden numbness or weakness or sudden vision problems.

If someone is experiencing even one of those symptoms you should call 911 immediately.