More younger people suffering strokes

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Posted: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 4:07 pm | Updated: 4:42 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

For the first time in decades, new reports show the number of strokes in older men and women is on the decline.

On the flip side, more younger people, even kids, are suffering strokes.

In fact, a study from the American Stroke Association found strokes have increased 30 percent in boys and girls ages five to 14. They can even happen in the womb or right after birth.

A talented rugby and football player, 15-year-old Jamie Finnerty is no lightweight, but Jamie was knocked off his feet a few months ago. "I felt like the world was spinning a thousand miles an hour."

The hard hit tore an artery and caused a stroke. "They thought it was a migraine, so it was 24 hours later they realized he had a stroke," says Neil Friedman, Pediatric Neurologist, Cleveland Clinic.

The National Stroke Association says on average, it takes 12 to 24 hours for adults to get to the hospital after the first sign of a stroke. That time climbs to 48 to 72 hours for children. "Childhood stroke often goes unrecognized."

Signs of pediatric stroke can be difficult to diagnose. Underlying heart disease, blood disorders, trauma, even chicken pox can cause a stroke, and until recently, there's been very little to help a child who's suffered a stroke. "For a child that means a lifelong disability."

Now, studies are underway to use the adult drug TPA in children with brain clots. Doctor Neil Friedman says the clot busting drug needs to be given within four and a half hours of the stroke. If it works, it can improve most signs of the stroke. But there's still, "The concern about hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain."

It was too late to use TPA for Jamie's stroke, but children’s brains have the ability to rewire quicker and more completely than adults. Just three months after his stroke, Jamie was walking, talking and ready to get back to school and sports. "It's kinda cool to say everything that happened, I'm standing here, I'm doing all this and I'm getting back to normal."

Here's something that may come as a surprise. The doctor says, the first week of life has the highest incident rate of stroke than any other time throughout your life. Most often, it's not recognized until a baby is five to six months old and begins favoring one side of his or her body.

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