What Is the Risk of Having a Stroke by Age Range? (2023)

You can have a stroke at any age, but there are a number of risk factors that can increase your chances. Increasing age is one of those risk factors.

A stroke is a medical emergency that can happen at any age, but the risk does increase as you get older. Aside from age, there are many risk factors that can increase your risk of a stroke.

The average age of stroke is in the 70s, though strokes are most common among people in their 90s.

A stroke can happen for different reasons – and appear with different symptoms – in different ages and stages of life. For this reason, it’s important to know what to expect if a stroke happens earlier.

This article will explain how strokes look different across age ranges, the most common ages for strokes overall, and what you need to know if you’ve had a stroke.

Your risk of having a stroke increases with age. There are several different processes and diseases in the body that can increase your risk of a stroke, including obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. While not all of these problems are age-related, the presence of one – or several – of these conditions increases over time.

Fewer than 40% of people hospitalized because of a stroke are younger than 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, the risk of a stroke appears to increase most after the age of 60, with a mean age of 74.3, according to a study in the United Kingdom.

Language matters

You’ll notice we use the terms “women” and “men” in this article. While we realize these terms may not match your gender experience, they’re the terms used by the researchers whose data was cited. We try to be as specific as possible when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.

However, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data for or may not have had participants who are transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.

Strokes that occur in people between ages 30 to 74 more often occurred in men, and strokes that occur in those ages 75 and older more often occurred in women.

Overall, the most common age for stroke was 71.4 years in men and 76.9 years in women, according to a 2021 study. Older reports also drew the same conclusion, with a report from 2009 estimating that stroke risk increased by 9% each year for men and 10% for women.

Regardless of your age, a stroke may be devastating to your health. It’s the second leading cause of death in people ages 60 and older and the fifth leading cause of death in people between ages 15 and 59. Even in babies and young children, strokes affect between 3 and 25 of every 100,000 people under 18, with the highest rates in babies less than a month old.

Below is a review of the most common types and causes of strokes at different stages of life.

Perinatal strokes

Strokes that occur in the perinatal period are considered as any that happen prior to delivery and within the first 28 days after birth. The majority of perinatal strokes are ischemic, caused by a sudden loss or disruption in the blood supply to the brain. Arterial ischemic infarctions are the most common, leading to more than 80% of strokes in this age group. The remainder of perinatal strokes are usually caused by blood clots or bleeding within the brain.

Childhood stroke

A stroke that occurs anywhere between the ages of 28 days and 18 years is considered a childhood stroke, and males under the age of 5 are most at risk.

Risk factors for childhood stroke include:

  • sickle cell diseases
  • blood clotting disorders
  • heart and blood vessel problems
  • hemorrhagic strokes

Strokes that fall into these categories make up about half of all childhood strokes.

Ischemic strokes make up the other half and are most often caused by cardiac or vascular problems.

Young adults

In the early years of adulthood, the risk of a stroke caused by hemorrhage from an injury or congenital issue decreases, but the rate of ischemic stroke begins to rise. Although strokes in young adulthood are often less severe than the ones that happen in older adults, the prevalence of strokes in younger adults is increasing.

Ischemic strokes are most common in this age group, making up roughly 75% of strokes among people ages 18 to 45, while hemorrhagic strokes made up just about a quarter. Particular risk factors in this age group include things such as:

  • obesity
  • HIV
  • sickle cell disease

Other risk factors that are more traditional in older adults, such as high cholesterol and cigarette smoking, were less often linked to strokes among young adults.

The risk of stroke increases with age, with the average age of stroke around age 74 years. Ischemic strokes are by far the most common in older adults, and many are linked to heart problems such as coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Most of the time, strokes in older adults are the result of a combination of multiple health and lifestyle factors. Additionally, strokes in older adults are often followed by events such as a major cardiac event or another stroke within roughly 2 years of the initial stroke.

Strokes can appear with varying symptoms depending on your age. The most obvious differences aren’t among adult age groups, though, but between perinatal strokes, childhood strokes, and strokes in adults.

The following symptoms are most common in perinatal strokes:

  • seizures
  • repetitive movements
  • pauses in breathing
  • decreased movement, especially on one side
  • favoring one hand over the other

In childhood strokes, common signs and symptoms include things more consistent with what’s seen in adults, such as:

  • face drooping
  • arm weakness
  • weakness on one side of the body
  • changes in speech
  • difficulty understanding language
  • sudden headache
  • vision loss or change in vision
  • dizziness
  • loss of coordination
  • new seizures

For adults, the hallmark symptoms of a stroke are known by the acronym BE-FAST:

  • B – balance changes
  • E – eye or vision changes
  • F – face drooping
  • A – arm weakness or weakness on one side of the body
  • S – speech difficulty
  • T – immediate treatment is crucial

A stroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment for the best outcomes. Additional symptoms can include things such as confusion or loss of consciousness.

One of the biggest dangers a stroke creates for your health is increasing your risk of having another stroke in the future. In older adults, serious and sometimes fatal strokes or related complications occurred within 2 years of an initial stroke.

This risk is the same in infants, children, and younger adults, but the amount of life left to live with that risk or with the effects of a stroke is longer. Infants and children who have strokes may go on to develop some degree of neurological damage after the fact, including things such as:

  • cerebral palsy
  • cognitive impairment
  • speech impairment
  • epilepsy

One study estimated that about 14% of children died in the first few years after a stroke, but in about half of those deaths, the primary cause was other illnesses. Nearly 27% of the children in that study had no impairments at all, while another 28% of the group had mild disability.

Are strokes treated differently at different ages?

Strokes are largely treated similarly regardless of age. Strokes caused by a blood clot are treated with blood thinners or surgery to remove the clot. Strokes caused by bleeding in the brain are sometimes treated with surgery, too. The major difference in treating strokes in infants and children is understanding that congenital abnormalities that may have contributed to a stroke will need to be treated or managed.

Similarly, in adults, you may need to address additional health problems, such as high blood pressure, that could make your stroke worse or cause another stroke in the future.

Can strokes in infants and children be prevented?

Although things such as fetal distress during delivery, emergency cesarean delivery (commonly referred to as a C-section), and traumatic injuries can cause infant and childhood strokes, a major contributor is congenital malformations or conditions that affect blood clotting.

Some of these problems may be known through family history or genetic testing, but there’s really no way to prevent most genetic or congenital disorders that can cause a fetal stroke. In rare cases where a bleeding disorder is the cause of a stroke in an infant, vitamin K administration can help.

While this is a standard supplement given at birth in most areas of the United States, increased brain hemorrhages in infants have been noted in parts of the world where vitamin K is not offered at birth or when parents refuse.

Drug use or even the use of certain prescription medications during pregnancy can also contribute to clotting or bleeding disorders.

How can older adults protect themselves from strokes?

Older adults can protect themselves from strokes by having regular well visits with a healthcare professional to monitor things such as blood pressure and cholesterol. Preventing falls or other traumatic injuries can help prevent head injuries that may lead to stroke.

People with certain conditions, such as AFib, should also be under the care of a healthcare professional and receive medications that can help prevent clot formation and eventual stroke.

Stokes can happen at any age. In infancy and childhood, there’s a risk of lifelong disability from strokes caused by congenital abnormalities and injuries.

As we age, the risk of traumatic injury decreases and congenital problems have likely been identified or resolved, but the effects of years lived become more evident. Lifestyle choices and cardiac-related problems are major underlying causes of strokes in adults.

The majority of strokes occur in a person’s 70s, but different risk factors and lifestyle changes greatly impact this risk level.

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