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Stroke-related hospitalizations rising among teens and young adults

Primary care physicians who educate their adolescent and young adult patients on healthy behaviors could help slow the rising number of stroke-related hospitalizations in people age 15 to 44, says a CDC physician. Such healthy behaviors include eating the proper amount of fruits and vegetables, exercising regularly and not smoking cigarettes, said Mary G. George, MD, MSPH, lead study author and medical officer in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. The study, published online Sept. 1 in Annals of Neurology, found that hospitalization rates due to ischemic stroke in people age 15 to 44 rose by as much as 37% between 1995 and 2008. Stroke risk factors, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and tobacco use, also increased during the study period among this age group. "It's very worrisome that those traditional risk factors for stroke, which we normally associate with older people, are very prominent in this young adult group," Dr. George said. She said stroke largely is preventable by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When the condition occurs in young people, it is particularly devastating because it can cause lifelong impairment of their physical or mental abilities, she said. "It's really important [for primary care physicians] to realize the importance of monitoring, preventing and controlling their young patients' risk factors for stroke," she said. Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., after cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to the American Stroke Assn. Each year, about 795,000 Americans have a new or recurrent stroke, and more than 137,000 die. Researchers examined hospital discharge data on patients ages 5 to 44 who were hospitalized between 1995 and 2008 for one of three types of stroke -- subarachnoid hemorrhage, intracerebral hemorrhage and ischemic stroke. The data were part of the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which is the largest U.S. database of inpatient hospital stays that incorporates figures from all payers. Stroke risk factors and comorbidities among the patients also were analyzed. Researchers found rates of hospitalization due to ischemic stroke increased for the entire study population, with the exception of girls ages 5 to 14. Hospitalizations for this group dropped slightly. The study did not give a reason for the decrease. Hypertension was diagnosed in more than half of adults ages 35 to 44 who were hospitalized for ischemic stroke in 2007-08. The condition was present among 37% of males ages 15 to 34, and was diagnosed in nearly one in three females in the same age group. Tobacco use also was common among hospitalized individuals, the study shows. The highest rate (38%) occurred among men ages 35 to 44 in 2007-08. The figure was 32% for women in the same age group. The full and original article can be found at: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2011/09/12/hlsb0913.htm
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