Younger people at risk for heart attacks, stroke, doctors say

Younger people are having more health problems like heart attacks and strokes. Doctors say most of these patients are unaware they have underlying issues.

North and South Carolina are both in what's called the ‘stroke belt.’ It's an 11-state region where the risk of a stroke is 34 percent higher for the general population.

A third of strokes happen in people under 65. The death of 52-year-old actor Luke Perry shocked longtime fans, but not doctors.

"Young stroke does happen,” neurologist Aaron Anderson says 

He says younger people should learn the warning signs.

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

At UNC-Chapel Hill, researchers say more young people are also having heart attacks, specifically younger women.

According to a new report, nearly 800,000 Americans have a heart attack each year. 30 percent of them are young women, and researchers say women tend to wait longer to be treated than men do because their symptoms are harder to recognize.

Heart attacks come with chest pain, shortness of breath, pain in one or both arms, but with a stroke, it’s different because it doesn't hurt.  

“’My arm feels numb, maybe I slept on it funny. We hear a lot of different reasons why people don't get to the hospital.  We only have three hours to treat for stroke,” Anderson said

To you remember the warning signs of stroke, think of "FAST."

"F" stands for face: Is one side of a person's face drooping? "A" is for arm weakness. "S" is for speech, and “T" stands for time. A stroke is an emergency and time is everything.