March 13, 2019 (Houston, TX) — Actor Luke Perry passed away last week following what his publicist described as a ‘massive’ stroke. Perry was 52 years old. His death leaves people at or close to his age wondering if this could happen to them. That is the topic this week on the Houston Healthcare Initiative Podcast with respected Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein. The podcast can be heard on iTunes,Soundcloudand www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Facts About Strokes

Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and high blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes. Smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity and other cardiovascular diseases put people at greater risk for stroke. “It’s true that most strokes happen in people who are much older than Mr. Perry was,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “Strokes in younger people like this are pretty rare. To answer how rare, only about 15 out of 100,000 under the age of 50 have a stroke and of these about 5% will die from it.”

Leading Cause of Strokes In Younger People

The most common cause of strokes in younger people today is drug abuse, particularly cocaine and amphetamines. Other drugs such as marijuana, heroin and “kush” are also associated with an increased incidence. Blood clots from the heart are also common. Holes in the heart and Mitral Prolapse are relatively common causes of strokes as well. Young women are also at increased risk from birth control pills. Arterial dissection happens when the layers of the artery wall separate.  “A blood clot will often form between the layers of the artery wall and blocks blood flow,” Dr. Goldstein reported. “If this occurs in a major blood vessel to the brain, it blocks blood flow and leads to a stroke.”

Holes in the Heart

A hole in the heart or ‘patent foramen ovale’ as they are known, is just what it says it is. “When a newborn baby takes his/her first breath a passageway between the left side and right side of the heart is supposed to close,” Dr. Goldstein said. “In about 25 percent of people, it remains open. In some of these people, the hole can raise the odds of stroke because small blood clots in the right heart that normally get cleared by the lungs, cross into the left heart and are swept to the brain.”

Blood Disorders

There are genetic conditions that make blood likely to form clots. Sickle Cell Anemia is one such disorder. Infections and other inflammatory diseases of arteries can also cause blood clots.

Aneurysms

A brain aneurysm is an entirely different type of stroke. Rather than a blood clot blocking a blood vessel, this type of stroke is caused by a hemorrhage into the brain tissue and affects brain function by compressing the surrounding tissue. “The biggest risk factor for this type of stroke is high blood pressure,” Dr. Goldstein said. “This can cause a small artery to burst even without anything wrong with the blood vessels. If there is a balloon-like bulge in a blood vessel (called an aneurysm) bleeding is even more likely. An arteriovenous malformation is a congenital tangle of blood vessels containing arteries and veins that can also bleed.

Ways to Avoid Strokes

Dr. Goldstein had four suggestions anyone could follow to reduce the risk of stroke.

  1. Stop smoking.
  2. Check blood pressure and treat appropriately.
  3. Do Not use Street Drugs.
  4. A routine physical can pick up blood diseases, infections or inflammation. Genetic diseases can be uncovered by family history.

Symptoms of Stroke

Dr. Goldstein listed these as the symptoms of stroke.

  1. Numbness in the extremities or the face, especially if it is only on one side of the body. Trouble speaking, understanding speech or sudden confusion.
  2. Blurred vision or trouble seeing.
  3. Issues with balance and coordination.
  4. Severe headaches with no known cause.

“Any of these should get our attention whether in ourselves or someone else, Dr. Goldstein said.

“But unfortunately, many people never know they have an underlying problem until they suffer a brain hemorrhage.”

F.A.S.T.

The American Heart Association recommends using the acronym F.A.S.T. to remember how to catch the warning signs of a stroke:

Face is drooping.

Arms are weak.

Speech difficulty.

Time to call 911.

And to get a better grasp on your own health, please contact the Houston Healthcare Initiative at 346-400-2789 or visit the website at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.