4 things you may not know about strokes

Number 1: Even children can have strokes.

By: Nadine Aljets .

Little boy named Cruz in hospital bed after stroke surgery
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1. Even children can have strokes

While stroke risk increases with age, it can occur at any age. For each decade of life after age 55, your chance of having it more than doubles. However, even young children can be affected. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke in U.S. children aged 0 to 15 happens in 6.4 per 100,000 children.

For one North Dakota family, that realization occurred when their 5-year-old child suffered a rare and life-threatening stroke. Cruz Krause went to preschool feeling fine, but just hours later was dizzy, pale and vomiting. His mother, Callie, took him to their local hospital where scans showed potential for it. Cruz was flown via Sanford AirMed to Sanford Medical Center Fargo, North Dakota’s only Joint Commission Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center where it was determined Cruz had suffered a basilar stroke.

Sanford neurologist Michael Manchak, M.D., said the basilar artery is the only unpaired artery in the brain, and it feeds vital structures in the brainstem.

“These strokes account for 1 to 4 percent of strokes. They carry an extremely high mortality rate approaching 80 to 90 percent when they are not intervened upon,” Manchak said.

Sanford Health assembled a team of 20 for a 12-minute procedure.

Cruz spent five days in the hospital after his procedure, and was soon back to his normal and energetic self.

“Thinking that you probably will lose your child to going, ‘Wow — we’re going home with him.’ We do have a little more of a journey to go, but Cruz will do it. He’s a fighter,” Cruz’s parents told WDAY-TV.

2. Smoking can double your risk

Smoking is one of the many risk factors for it that can be changed by quitting. Smoking almost doubles the risk for an ischemic stroke, the most common type, by making blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain.

Smoking also damages cells that line the blood vessels and increases the buildup of plaque, causing thickening and narrowing of blood vessels leading to stroke.

3. Where you live can increase your risk

Did you know there are “stroke belt” states? According to the American Stroke Association, they are more common in the southeastern United States.

Regional differences in lifestyle, race, smoking habits and diet may contribute to this increased risk.

4. Not all symptoms appear the same

F.A.S.T. is a simple way to remember the traditional signs to watch for. F = facial dropping, A = arm weakness, S = speech difficulty and T = time to call 911.

However, symptoms can appear in other less recognizable ways. Sudden nausea or vomiting that is not caused by illness and/or brief loss of consciousness like fainting, seizures or coma could indicate a medical issue like stroke.

If you or someone else experiences these issues, call 911 immediately. With a stroke, time equals brain. The sooner treatment is received, the better the outcome.