News | Published February 11, 2013

Mount Nittany Medical Center program emphasizes stroke symptom recognition in young and old

In light of recent findings that suggest that there has been an increase in stroke in the under age 55 population, it is imperative to be aware of stroke symptoms, and that they can occur in young as well as older people.
Anyone showing symptoms of a stroke should go to the emergency department immediately for care — “time is brain” – that’s the most important message, according to Jen Vance, RN, stroke coordinator at Mount Nittany Medical Center.
Act F.A.S.T. - Symptoms of stroke include:
Face Drooping: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
Arm Weakness: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, is she/he unable to speak, or is the person hard to understand? Ask the him/her to repeat a simple sentence, like "the sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 911 If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, and get him/her to the hospital immediately.
Two studies reflecting data between the years 1993 and 2008 indicate the trend of stroke in younger adults. According to work by Brett Kissela, vice chair of neurology at the University of Cincinnati, the rate of strokes among adults younger than 55, though still uncommon, rose by more than 60 percent between 1993 and 2005. Kissela's research focused on Ohio and Kentucky, but he said the findings "likely reflect what's happening nationally."
Another study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also showed that hospitalization rates for stroke increased by 30 percent for ages 15 to 34 and 37 percent for ages 35 to 44 from 1995 to 2008. In 2007-08 alone, there were more than 27,000 hospitalizations for the most common type of stroke among people 35 to 44.
Heightened vigilance among physicians and better diagnostic methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) may contribute to the growing numbers. But Mary C. George, who led the CDC research, found that one in three patients ages 15 to 34 and more than half between 35 and 44 had high blood pressure; about one in four had diabetes. Smoking, obesity, and high cholesterol were also common.
Mount Nittany Medical Center is currently working towards Primary Stroke Center Certification from The Joint Commission following the implementation of TeleStroke program with Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.  The TeleStroke program provides consults for stroke patients in the emergency department.
"We are collecting and reviewing our patient data in order to improve stroke care for our patients and are educating our staff to provide our patients with the latest evidenced-based standards for stroke care,”  said Vance.
Gloria Hochman’s article for the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing a 23-year old’s experience with stroke, as well as information about the two studies listed above, can be accessed through this link.