Strokes most commonly strike those in old age but new study shows that young and middle aged adults are increasingly at risk.
A study published in the journal Neurology showed that the rate of strokes among adults under 55 nearly doubled between 1993 and 2005, reports Reuters.
In 1994, 12.9 percent of strokes occurred in adults between ages 20 and 55, but by 2005, that same group accounted for 18.6 percent of all strokes, according to NBC News.
The study also reports that the average age of people who experienced a stroke dropped by two years, from 71 in 1994 to 69 in 2005.
In addition to improved diagnosis, study author Dr. Brett Kissela, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio told NBC that lifestyle must have played a key role.
"The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol," he said. "Regardless, the rising trend found in our study is of great concern for public health, because strokes in younger people translate to greater lifetime disability."
The researchers studied a four-county area in Ohio and Kentucky after noticing more young patients coming to hospitals with strokes.
The data will be a warning to doctors who can dismiss the threat of stroke in a young patient.
"This is a very disturbing trend and meaningful, strong data,'' neurologist Daniel Labovitz of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York, who was not associated with the study, told USA Today.
"In older people, we're more likely to make the call (of stroke). Both patients and doctors tend to think, 'It can't be a stroke because the person is too young.' We all have to be on the lookout now. I will use this study as guidance."
Over 800,000 people die in the US each year from cardiovascular disease and strokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke can also cause paralysis, and speech and emotional difficulties.
About 80% of all strokes are preventable, according to the American Stroke Association. USA Today reports that stroke rates have been generally declining among older black and white patients because of better lifestyle and risk management