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Stroke Patients Are Getting Younger, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Having a stroke may not be just a concern for the elderly.  New research shows young adults are having strokes at a faster rate, and people under 55 make up an increased percentage of all strokes.

In a new study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers looked at more than 1 million American adults and found that the rate of first stroke in patients age 20 to 54 had jumped from 12.9 percent in 1993 and 1994 to 18.6 percent in 2005.

Though the study authors did not look into what is causing the upsurge in young strokes, they say the study results may be a reflection of an increase in risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and smoking in younger patients.

When compared with data from the National Examination Survey for 1999-2000 and 2005-2006 prevalence rates for the leading risk factors for higher among patients in the same age range, MedPage Today reports.

The authors noted, according to MedPage, "the prevalence of stroke risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, [coronary heart disease] and current smoking are all elevated in the younger stroke population compared with the population survey."

Stroke is fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., and can come with lasting effects, including paralysis and speech impairment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio