Here's What Can Cause a Stroke at 52

The risk factors can be different for middle-aged people, experts say
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 6, 2019 10:30 AM CST
How You Can Die of a Stroke at 52
In this Aug. 6, 2018, file photo, Luke Perry poses for a portrait during the 2018 Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

If you were left feeling concerned after Luke Perry's death after a stroke at age 52, wondering if you, too, are at risk at such a young age—you're not alone. Articles abound in the wake of his death explaining that strokes can happen at any age. But, as the New York Times explains, the "vast majority" of strokes do, in fact, occur in "much older people." When strokes do occur in younger patients, there are often different causes than those found in older patients. According to two experts who spoke to the Times, those causes can include such uber-specific events as a chiropractic adjustment, sports incident, or roller coaster ride causing an artery to tear and a blood clot to form and travel to the brain. And when strokes do occur in younger people, whose brains have not yet shrunk as they will in older adulthood, they are more at risk of fatal brain swelling, doctors tell USA Today.

There are other, less freaky-sounding causes of stroke in the young as well: a hole in the heart, which about 25% of people possess and which makes some of those people more vulnerable to a stroke; a genetic mutation making certain people more prone to blood clots that travel to the brain; a heart defect or rhythm disturbance that causes clots to form and travel to the brain; certain drugs that cause arteries to suddenly narrow or close, cutting off blood flow to the brain; or an aneurysm. Kara Swisher writes in the Times that she, too, had a stroke, at age 49, with none of the usual warning signs such as high blood pressure; in her case, it was a transient ischemic attack, often referred to as a mini-stroke, brought about by the aforementioned hole in the heart, blood prone to clotting, and a long flight to Hong Kong. (Luke Perry's daughter spoke out on Tuesday.)

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