The stroke suffered a week ago by Kiko Rivera, Isabel Pantoja’s son, also known as Paquirrín, has once again put this disease in the media spotlight. Despite the youth of Rivera, who has 38 years old, doctors rule out that more strokes are now occurring in young people than in the past. However, diseases such as diabetes, which has been increasing in recent years, the obesity (especially abdominal), the hypertension, the sedentary lifestyle, the poor nutrition, the smoking or the drug use are risk factors. Stroke, physicians point out, is not only a disease of older people and is a “public health problem of the first order.” An “epidemic.” precise. This Saturday, October 29, is World Stroke Day.
Every year, on Catalonia about 13,000 people suffer a stroke, which is the result of a disturbance of blood circulation in the brain. There are two types of stroke: the ischemic (which is the one suffered by Kiko Rivera and is due to an arterial obstruction, whereby the blood supply to an area of the brain is altered and causes the brain cells in the affected area to die due to lack of blood supply) and the hemorrhagic (which occurs when an artery ruptures and blood accumulates in the form of a hematoma inside the brain).
“Following the case of Paquirrín, there has been more noise and it seems that there is more incidence in young people. It’s not like that,” he told this newspaper. Ana Rodríguez, coordinator of the Functional Stroke Unit of the Hospital del Mar. Rodriguez has reviewed the ages of patients admitted to the hospital in recent years. “Of the 10,000 patients treated in the unit, we have not seen major differences. The mean age is 75 or 76 years in ischemic strokes and 71 or 72 in hemorrhagic strokes,” says Rodriguez.
“Fifteen percent of admissions are in those under 50, but this has been a constant in recent years,” says the stroke unit of the Hospital del Mar.
Hemorrhagic strokes do occur in somewhat younger people, but in recent years, he stresses, the incidence has not changed. “The 15% of revenues are under 50 years of age, but this has been a constant in recent years,” points out this doctor. For his part, Carlos Molina, head of the Neurology and Stroke Unit at Vall d’Hebron Hospital, emphasizes that it is not that there are more strokes now, but that “it is better diagnosed than years ago”. “There is more social conscience, more campaigning. And young people consult more,” he points out. Molina qualifies that in recent years this disease has been detected more, but he also warns that there are “more diabetes, hypertension and obesity”.
It is estimated that one in six people will suffer a stroke at some point in their lives. One occurs every six minutes in Spain and, in Catalonia, every 45 minutes. This disease is more frequent in men, but more deadly in women: in women, it is the leading cause of death over the age of 65, and in men, the third leading cause of death over the age of 75. leading cause of disability.
The cardiovascular risk, more frequent in older people, is behind stroke. But there are other circumstances which, in young people, may be conducive to cerebral infarction, such as the cardiac alterations, the dissections of the cerebral arteries or the blood coagulation disorders. In addition, there is the bad life, such as the consumption of intoxicants. “Cocaine and cannabis increase the risk,” insists Molina. In countries such as India or Ethiopia, the number of stroke cases has “skyrocketed” because they have incorporated Western habits.
In countries such as India or Ethiopia, stroke cases have “skyrocketed” because they have incorporated Western habits.
Although strokes can also be very serious in young people and cause their death, the younger the individual, the greater the capacity for functional recovery. “Younger people have greater recovery. But strokes in this population can be just as severe and disabling. It is not true that stroke is a thing of older people. There are even athletes who suffer from them due to cardiac alterations,” emphasizes the Vall d’Hebron physician.
Given that there is a greater awareness of the alarm symptoms of stroke (a deviation of the mouth or one eye, difficulty in raising the arms or inability to speak) the activations of the Codi ictus de Catalunya (call 112 quickly) have grown by 32%. in recent years, from 6,324 activations in 2018 to 8,398 in 2021, according to the Conselleria de Salut. “With the new acute-phase treatments in the first hours, the prognosis of stroke has greatly improved. In addition, hospital centers have specialized units.” Rodriguez highlights.
If such treatment has been possible, 25% to 30% of patients recover. Also the intensive rehabilitation has resulted in less disability than years ago. And the prevention treating arrhythmias and hypertension early also reduces the risk.