Adults Under Age 45 Are Not Aware of Common Stroke Symptoms

  • Ischemic stroke
  • Secondary stroke prevention
  • Stroke

An annual survey, results of which were published in Stroke, suggests nearly 30% of adults in the US age 45 or less do not know all 5 of the most common stroke symptoms or the FAST acronym, that can help people remember what to do in case of stroke symptoms. Knowledge among this population is crucial as many more people under age 55 are experiencing stroke, particularly in the context of COVID-19.

The FAST acronym reminds people that if a person has: 
•    Face drooping
•    Arm weakness
•    Speech slurred
•    Time to call 9-1-1

The key stroke symptoms that were queried were 
1.    numbness of face/arm/leg 
2.    confusion/trouble speaking
3.    difficulty walking/dizziness/loss of balance
4.    trouble seeing 
5.    severe headache

In the survey, researchers analyzed answers from 9,844 adults less than age 45, representing 107.2 million people in the US in that age group. Mean age of respondents was 31, half were women, and 62.2% were nonHispanic white.

The researchers found that 28.9% of respondents were not aware of all 5 common stroke symptoms and 3% did not know any stroke symptoms. Hispanic/Latinx adults and those born outside the US were twice as likely not to know stroke symptoms compared with nonHispanic whites and people born in the US. Adults with a high-school diploma or more education were 3 times more likely than those with less education to know stroke symptoms. 

Study author Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH, MSc, chief of the division of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, Texas said the high number of young adults who remain unaware of stroke symptoms is surprising, and along with continued social inequities, these are major concerns.

The research also found that nearly 3% of young adults surveyed would not contact emergency medical services if they did see someone experiencing perceived stroke symptoms. “That finding could be a matter of life and death,” said Mitchell S. V. Elkind, MD, MS, FAHA, FAAN, president of the American Heart Association.

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