Having a stroke is a frightening experience, and while there are common risk factors, doctors in the Central Valley have noticed a trend we should all be aware of.
More and more younger patients have been having strokes nationwide. We met one local young man who had a stroke due to a brain aneurysm at only 35 years old.
Bryan Shrum never thought he’d find himself in a doctor’s office as often as he’s in one now. Three years ago, he said he woke up on a normal Saturday morning.
He explained, “And then there was kinda a moment where I stared at myself in the mirror and something kinda, kinda just clicked, and then like my eyes started to refocus and I was like, what was that? And it didn’t seem right, just kinda weird, just kinda caught me off guard… Went to go feed my cat and so my brain got as far as scooping up my cat food and then going over the cat bowl and then stopped. I had no other brain function after that.”
He realized he was having a stroke. Thankfully a friend was by his side, and Bryan was rushed to the hospital. There, doctors found he had a brain aneurysm.
Dr. Amir Khan is an Endovascular Neurologist & the Co-Director of the Stroke Program at Community Regional Medical Center.
“So a brain aneurysm is a sac or a bulge in one of the arteries in the brain,” said Dr. Khan.
He said the brain aneurysm is what caused Bryan’s minor stroke. Though Bryan does not fit the bill of a common stroke patient, Dr. Khan said, “It’s not only the people that are not doing what we consider the correct lifestyle habits that are at risk of stroke, and importantly you can even be a younger person and be at risk of stroke… There’s been an alarming rise in what we consider young adult stroke patients… A recent study actually demonstrated that since the mid-90’s there’s been a doubling nationwide in the rate of patients in that age range who are having stroke.”
Dr. Khan attributes younger patients having strokes to these risk factors, “High blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol, use things of that nature, and then also heart disease in a variety of forms,” commented Dr. Khan.
They’re seeing patients between the ages of 18 to 45 years old more often.
“So to give you an example, the other day, we had someone who was only 20-years old who had ischemic stroke or blood vessel blockage stroke. Again, someone who would not fit the typical profile of a stroke patient,” said Dr. Khan.
In Bryan’s case, he didn’t necessarily have the risk factors, which makes his experience of a stroke even more alarming.
“Being that I’m so young, I’m not a smoker, I don’t do any drugs, I drink coffee, and then you know, have my fun fatty foods, but generally speaking, I’m not unhealthy in any way,” said Bryan.
Bryan underwent surgery to have a mesh stent placed inside the blocked artery. It becomes a wall inside the vessel to divert blood away from the anerurysm.
Dr. Khan stated, “So having identified and treated that brain aneurysm in Bryan’s situation, I think that he is significantly reduced his chance of having this happen again.”
Bryan added, “Grateful to be here, went from a very scary situation to something that is in my past now.”
Dr. Khan said it’s crucial everyone know the signs of a stroke. He said the acronym “BE FAST” works best – a reminder that you need to act fast at the first sign of a stroke symptom.
“B stands for balance problems, E stands for eye, so visual problems, problems with your vision. F stands for face, meaning facial weakness. A stands for arm weakness or lack of normal function in the arm or hand. S stands for speech, so trouble with your speech, and then T stands for time which is a reminder that you act quickly,” said Dr. Khan.
Bryan lives his life now more aware of the risk of another stroke, and also offers people advice in case of an emergency.
Bryan ended, “Just like calling an ambulance right, you can call an ambulance, but if you can’t speak, how’s that gonna get you anywhere? So it’s like okay, write down on a piece a paper, keep it in your wallet, ‘Hey I’m having a stroke, please call for help, so if you give it to somebody when they’re walking by.'”