Think you’re too young to have a stroke? Think again. While two-thirds of strokes affect people 65 years and over, strokes occur at any age. “We’re seeing more patients who are stroke survivors in the 40-65 age range,” said Angela Carbone, M.D., a Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana physician specializing in stroke rehabilitation.

Strokes are no longer restricted to the elderly due to a series of risk factors affecting anyone. These include:

• Genetics: According to the American Stroke Association, if a parent, grandparent or sibling has had a stroke — especially before age 65  you may be at greater risk.
• Race: African-Americans are more likely to die from a stroke than Caucasians. Reason: AfricanAmericans are more frequently diagnosed with high blood pressure. Asians and Hispanics are also at risk.
• Males are more susceptible to stroke than females.
• High blood pressure (in any race or age group)
• Age — Stroke risk nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55.
• High cholesterol
• Smoking
• Atrial fibrillation
• Stress
• Sedentary lifestyle

There are two types of stroke: ischemic, in which a blood clot breaks loose and lodges in the brain. Eighty-five percent of strokes are ischemic. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures.

Former WRTV Channel 6 reporter Stacia Matthews survived the latter in March of 2017.

For more than 20 years, Matthews covered many topics as a medical reporter. When she left television, Matthews never expected to be the subject of one of her medical stories. “My experience as a medical reporter helped save my life,” said the fiftysomething Matthews, now with the communications/marketing department of the Indiana Spine Group based in Carmel.

“I had only a few hours to get to a hospital.” Matthews went to the emergency room, where doctors confirmed a stroke diagnosis.

For two weeks she was in a medically-induced coma so a blood clot would not occur. When Matthews regained consciousness, she had no memory of what had happened. “One minute I was in the grocery with a weird headache, then I was looking in the mirror and saw a face I didn’t recognize,” she said.

After weeks of intense therapy, by autumn of 2017 Matthews could grasp what had happened.

By 2018 she resumed working fulltime, doing some of her daily routines, watching her diet, taking her medicine, and telling others about her experience.

“I’m just now getting back to me,” she said. “Suffering a stroke means life as you knew it may no longer exist.

Matthews’ experience as a medical reporter taught her the warning signs of a stroke. “Just think FAST,” said RHI Physician Assistant Rachel Milstead.

Facial droop — Is there numbness or paralysis on one side of your face? Arm or leg weakness
Speech difficulties — Is your speech slurred?
Time — When a stroke occurs, you have about three hours to seek treatment.

Delays can lead to paralysis, loss of motion and death. Call 911, go to an emergency room, but don’t go to bed.

For more information about stroke, visit the American Stroke Association website.

By Jon White, Freelance Writer

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