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DNA India
13 September 2010
By Arun Dev
Bangalore, India

Dr Prabakhar Shetty still remembers Sunil (name changed), a 32–year–old professional from Bangalore, who was brought to his hospital following a brain stroke. The head of department of neurology at Columbia Asia Hospital in Yeshwantpur said: "He was brought three hours after suffering a stroke. The window period for treatment was over, yet we were able to save him. That was a miracle."

Amid such miracles there is a trend that is worrying the doctors a lot: an increasing number of stroke victims are like Sunil – young professionals. According to the registry maintained by the neuroscience centre at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, one fourth of patients suffering from brain stroke in India are youths. And often, stroke among youngsters go undetected, says doctors.

"Till two decades ago, stroke was common among older people," Dr Arjun Srivasthava, a consultant neurosurgeon at Columbia Asia, said. "But, now, many of the stroke patients are young. It is their erratic lifestyle and disorders caused by it, like diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension, that cause stroke. Stroke can be prevented to a great extent by a proper lifestyle."

Doctors blame the rising cases of stroke on high levels of stress and an erratic lifestyle. "An unhealthy cholesterol profile may be a contributing factor, a possible cause of stroke. Smoking, too, contributes, as the fine pollutants in cigarette smoke play their part in narrowing and blocking blood vessels in the body. These are some of the main reasons for stroke attacks among youngsters," said Dr Srivasthava.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another common cause of strokes."Because of high blood pressure, the arteries sometimes rupture, causing bleeding in the brain. Stress contributes to a stroke as it raises the chances of medical conditions like high blood pressure," said Dr Chandran.

"People are more aware of symptoms of a heart attack and rush to a hospital even if they have a minor chest pain. But for brain stroke, the initial symptoms are often missed or misinterpreted as weakness," said Dr Prabakhar Shetty.

"Young people usually ignore warning signs like dizziness, sudden weakness in limbs and difficulty in speaking or understanding words. But all these are symptoms of a transient ischemic stroke (TIA) or a temporary stroke. These symptoms disappear within 24 hours, which is one of the reasons people don’t pay much attention to them," he said.

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