Luke Perry's death is a reminder, younger people are at risk of stroke

Luke Perry's death at age 52 from a stroke shocked many of the actor's longtime fans. But Dr. Aaron Anderson, an Assistant Professor at the Emory School of Medicine and neurologist at Grady Memorial Hospital's Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center isn't all that surprised.

"Young stroke does happen, although we tend to think about it as something that happens to older people," Anderson says.

At the Marcus Stroke Center, they treat about 1200 patients a year, and most have suffered a major stroke that requires more aggressive intense treatment.

Dr. Anderson says they're seeing a jump in younger stroke patients, between the ages of 35 and 55. And many, he says, were unaware they had underlying problems, like high blood pressure, that can raise their risk of stroke.

"Blood pressure, I always say, is risk-factors 1,2 and 3 for stroke," Anderson says. "If we were able to not only diagnose but treat high blood pressure, we would treat and prevent probably 60 percent of strokes."

Atlanta is along the stroke belt, where strokes are more common in younger people, especially African-Americans.

It's typically the same risk factors, high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol," Anderson says. "But, what we worry about is they're uncontrolled, they're undiagnosed, and when they go undiagnosed, you develop the complications earlier."

Dr. Anderson says if you can get to a healthy weight, get regular exercise, and stop smoking, you may be able to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes risk. But, you also need to know the warning signs, and act quickly.

"It is very different than a heart attack, he says. "With chest pain, people call 911, get to a hospital and get evaluated.

But, with stroke, it doesn't hurt.  We hear a lot of different reasons why people don't get to the hospital. We only have 3 hours to treat for stroke."