Stroke rises among the young

Pia Ranada
Unhealthy food choices combined with a stressful yet sedentary lifestyle are proving to be truly life-shortening — be warned

IT STILL HOLDS TRUE: Smoking can cause strokes, specially among young people. Screen grab from YouTube (VidsOfChristy)

MANILA, Philippines – A sedentary lifestyle, too much cholesterol in food, alcohol abuse and cigarette-smoking are among the reasons why strokes among 18- to 44-year-olds are on the rise all over the world.

According to a report in the American Academy of Neurology Journal, one in 5 stroke victims are below 55 years old. 

Though mostly associated with the elderly, ischemic strokes (or strokes caused by a blockage in an artery supplying the brain) also occur in the young. It may also be caused by trauma leading to injuries that tear blood vessels, causing blood shortage in the brain. Infections are another likely culprit, causing inflammation of blood vessels that stop blood from flowing to the brain.

All these possible causes show how stroke can happen not just to the elderly, but to people of all ages. But the rising occurrence of strokes among the young is alarming because the over-all trend for strokes is falling. 

So why are the number of young stroke victims — and only young stroke victims — rising?

In an article by BBC News Online, Dr. Brett Kissela, author of the report, says the lifestyle of modern youths is a factor.

Young people who hardly exercise, eat a lot of fatty and sugar-loaded food and are constantly stressed out are the most susceptible to ischemic strokes.

Tobacco or cigarette-smoking is another lifestyle habit that must change to prevent the condition. 

Genetics also plays a part. A person with family members who have experienced a stroke is likely to suffer from it within their lifetime.

If this can be said of you, annual medical check-ups are recommended. 

The best prevention

In the end, the best way to prevent stroke is to live healthy. 

In the same BBC article, the 40 percent reduction of over-all major stroke occurrences in the United Kingdom in the past 20 years was attributed to the rise in healthy living public awareness.

It sounds like a no-brainer: Live healthy to be healthy.

But it’s easier said than done. Lifestyles of many Filipino youths don’t exactly spell “holistic well-being.”

In an article in PhilStar, Dr. Joy Fontanilla of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center said, “Urbanization has led to a culture of over-eating and under-exercising.” 

Lifestyles of Filipino youths are too often characterized by hours at a desk job, an excess in cheaper and more convenient junk food and little to no time or inclination for exercise or outdoor activities.

If this sounds a bit too much like your lifestyle for comfort, do yourself a favor.

Get off that couch, grab a salad instead of an oily burger and take a jog outside. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at