- Actor Luke Perry died at age 52 after experiencing a stroke.
- The risk for stroke increases as you get older, but it can happen at any age.
- Experts told INSIDER that strokes among younger people are becoming more common, though we don’t fully understand why.
“Riverdale” actor Luke Perry has died at age 52 after a stroke.
TMZ first reported the news on Monday, and a representative for the actor confirmed the news to INSIDER in a statement.
“Actor Luke Perry, 52, passed away today after suffering a massive stroke,” the statement said in part. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Luke from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning.”
Stroke, a medical emergency that can lead to brain damage, disability, or death, tends to be associated with older adults. While it is true that stroke risk climbs with age, experts told INSIDER that stroke can occur even in younger people.
Here’s what everyone should know about the condition.
There are two main types of stroke
The two main types of stroke are called ischemic and hemorrhagic, according to the US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). It’s not clear which type Perry experienced.
In ischemic strokes, which are more common, an artery that delivers oxygen-rich blood to the brain is blocked, often by a blood clot. Within a few minutes, oxygen-deprived brain cells start to die. Hemorraghic strokes occur when a brain artery leaks or breaks open, and pressure created by the leaked blood causes damage to brain cells.
The effects of a stroke vary depending on which part of the brain was affected and how much damage occurred, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). A small stroke could result in minor effects like temporary limb weakness, but other stroke patients may become paralyzed or lose their ability to speak. In some cases, stroke can be fatal. It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the US, according to the AHA.
Stroke can happen at any age, and experts say it’s becoming more common among younger adults
The risk of stroke rises as you get older. After age 55, stroke risk doubles with each decade that a person lives, Dr. Larry Goldstein, professor and chair of the department of neurology at the University of Kentucky, told INSIDER.
But older people aren’t the only ones who can experience it.
“Stroke can occur at any age,” Goldstein said. “There’s no age that’s immune.”
In fact, experts say that strokes are are on the rise among younger adults.
“For reasons that are not entirely clear, we’re seeing some increase in stroke in younger populations in the past decade,” Dr. Shraddha Mainali, a neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told INSIDER. “It could be partly from the modern lifestyle or diet or pollution, or maybe we’re just picking up the symptoms more efficiently. But it does happen in the younger population.”
In 2009, 34% of people hospitalized for strokes in the US were under the age of 65, up from 24% in 1989, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A 2017 study published in JAMA Neurology also found that hospitalizations for ischemic stroke increased significantly in people age 35 to 44 between 2003 and 2012.
Goldstein echoed that the reasons for this trend aren’t fully understood, but added that it’s “likely a combination” of different factors, possibly including obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and diabetes.
There are some ways to help prevent stroke
“Stroke is very often preventable,” Goldstein said. “There are things that we can do in terms of lifestyle that are important [for prevention.]”
These strategies include not smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke, having a normal body mass index (BMI), getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet like the DASH diet, and not drinking alcohol in excess, he said.
Other factors that increase the risk for stroke, like high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat). can be treated with medications, Goldstein said.
Use the FAST guide to look for stroke symptoms
Goldstein said and Mainali both pointed to the AHA’s “FAST” acronym as a helpful guide to the most prominent stroke symptoms.
F stands for facial drooping on one side. A stands for arms: If the person tries to raise both arms, look to see if one drifts downward. S stands for slurred or strange speech. And T stands for time, meaning anyone noticing these symptoms should call 911 right away.
But strokes can present with other symptoms besides the ones covered by FAST, Mainali said, including feeling numb on one side of the body, feeling suddenly off balance, and having a very sudden or severe headache.
Goldstein added that someone having a stroke could have vision problems, too, like problems seeing out of one or both eyes.
“When those symptoms occur, call 911 to get help as quickly as possible,” Goldstein said.
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