Background and purpose: Stroke in the young is particularly tragic because of the potential for a lifetime of disablement. More than 10% of patients with stroke due to cerebral infarction are aged 55 years or younger. While a number of studies have addressed the issue of stroke mechanism in the young, quantitation of risk factors has rarely been undertaken. Given the importance of risk factor assessment in primary prevention, we aimed to assess this using case-control methodology in a hospital-based series and community-based control subjects.
Methods: A total of 201 consecutive patients with first-onset stroke due to cerebral infarction aged 15 to 55 years (mean, 45.5 years) were accrued from four teaching hospitals during 1985 to 1992 and compared with their age- and sex-matched neighborhood controls. Information concerning potential risk factor exposure status was collected by structured questionnaire at interview. Stroke risks were estimated by calculating the odds ratios with multivariate logistic regression.
Results: Significantly increased risk of stroke was found among those with diabetes (odds ratio, 11.6 [95% confidence intervals, 1.2 to 115.2]), hypertension (6.8 [3.3 to 13.9]), heart disease (2.7 [1.1 to 6.4]), current cigarette smoking (2.5 [1.3, 5.0]), and long-term heavy alcohol consumption (> or = 60 g/d) (15.3 [1.0 to 232.0]). However, heavy alcohol ingestion (> or = 60 g) within 24 hours preceding stroke onset was not a risk factor (0.9 [0.3 to 3.4]).
Conclusions: Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, current smoking, and long-term heavy alcohol consumption are major risk factors for stroke in young adults. Given that the majority of these factors are either correctable or modifiable, prevention strategies may have the potential to reduce the impact of stroke in this age group.