NEWS

Young Adults Can Have Strokes, Too

Hailey Bieber

Bellocqimages / Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • While strokes are more common in older adults, they can have life-altering impact on people of all ages.
  • Experts say it is important to learn the signs of a stroke to quickly identify and connect someone with help if needed.
  • A “mini-stroke” may resolve itself in few hours, but it’s a warning sign of risk factors that may eventually result in a stroke.

Hailey Bieber was hospitalized last week after having stroke-like symptoms due to a small blood clot in her brain. The 25-year-old model said the blood clot caused “a small lack of oxygen” but she recovered within a few hours. ABC News contributor Darien Sutton, MD, who was not involved in Bieber’s care, said on Good Morning America that he believes she “had a transient ischemic attack, or ‘mini-stroke.’”

Having a stroke at the age of 25 may sound surprising to some. But about 10-15% of strokes occur in people under the age of 50. Young adults are not altogether immune from the risk.

“Traditionally, we have thought of stroke as occurring at older ages. Unfortunately, we are seeing younger and younger people having strokes,” M. Shazam Hussain, MD, board certified neurologist and director of Cleveland Clinic’s Cerebrovascular Center, told Verywell. “We definitely want people of all ages to really know those signs and symptoms.”

Some studies have suggested that COVID-19 is associated with an increased risk of developing blood clots, but the risk appears rare, Hussain said. Most people won’t develop dangerous blood clots, but it’s important to learn the symptoms of a stroke so they can get help immediately in case of an emergency, he added.

How to Detect a Stroke

Nearly 30% of people under the age of 45 don’t know the telltale signs of a stroke, according to a recent survey. But early detection can be key in reducing risk of complications. Studies estimate that a stroke can destroy an average of about 2 million neurons per minute. 

One way to detect a stroke is to use the BE-FAST method, which tells people what to look for to detect stroke symptoms and stresses the importance of seeking care urgently.

BE FAST

B: Balance. Is the person having difficulty standing up?

E: Eyes. Is the person having difficulty seeing?


F: Face. Is the one side of the person’s face drooping?

A: Arms. Is the person experiencing numbness or weakness in one arm?

S: Speech. Is the person having difficulty speaking or are they slurring their words?

T: Timing. Call 911 as soon as possible, and make note of the time the symptoms appeared.

“Stroke is probably one of the most time sensitive conditions around,” Hussain said. “It’s really a situation where every minute and every second counts.”

A stroke can have a devastating long-term impact on someone’s health and well-being regardless of their age. It is a leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States.

The severity of a stroke can depend on factors like the size of damaged area in the brain and where the stroke occurs in the brain, Hussain added.

Differences Between a Stroke and a TIA

Some people who experience symptoms of a stroke may actually be experiencing a transient ischemic stroke (TIA) or mini-stroke. A TIA is temporary and it can resolve from a few minutes to a few hours. While a stroke usually causes abnormalities that are visible on a brain scan, TIA may not be detected through MRI after someone recovers. This could mean that the body has dissolved the blood clot on its own and it’s more typical with smaller blood clots, Hussain said.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell whether a person is suffering a stroke or a TIA until the aftermath of the incident. Recovering from a TIA does not remove all risks of complications. Depending on the cause of the blood clot, there may be underlying medical issues that need to be addressed.

“It’s important not to just relax at that point. It’s better to go talk to your doctor or seek out medical attention,” Hussain said.

Finding and treating an underlying cause can also be crucial in helping people reduce the risk of having a second stroke, which is common after initial complications. TIA is a warning sign of risk factors that may eventually result in a stroke.

The risk of having a stroke within 90 days after a TIA is 7.4%, according to a study published in the International Journal of Stroke.

What to Expect if You’re Hospitalized for a Stroke

When you arrive at the emergency room, you will receive a quick health assessment and a CT scan. From there and depending on your symptoms and stroke severity, you may be given treatments to help reduce the effect of the stroke:

  • An intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a blood thinner that activates blood clot breakdown and helps restore blood flow to the brain
  • Aspiration thrombectomy, which uses suction to remove a clot via a catheter
  • Retriever thrombectomy, which uses a tiny device inserted through a catheter to retrieve the clot
  • A surgical thrombectomy—a procedure that removes blood clots from an artery or vein

What This Means For You

If you are experiencing stroke-like symptoms, such as trouble balancing and seeing, droopiness in your face, weakness in arms, or impaired speech, seek help quickly by calling 911.

Was this page helpful?
9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. George MG. Risk factors for ischemic stroke in younger adults. Stroke. 2020;51(3):729-735. doi:10.1161/strokeaha.119.024156

  2. Desai SM, Rocha M, Jovin TG, Jadhav AP. High variability in neuronal loss: time is brain, requantified. Stroke. 2019;50(1):34-37. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.118.023499

  3. Aroor S, Singh R, Goldstein LB. BE-FAST (balance, eyes, face, arm, speech, time): reducing the proportion of strokes missed using the FAST mnemonicStroke. 2017;48(2):479-481. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.015169

  4. Tsao CW, Aday AW, Almarzooq ZI, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2022 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2022;145(8). doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000001052

  5. Cleveland Clinic. Why you should take heed of the warning from a ‘mini-stroke’.

  6. Najib N, Magin P, Lasserson D, et al. Contemporary prognosis of transient ischemic attack patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Stroke. 2019;14(5):460-467. doi:10.1177/1747493018823568

  7. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Tissue plasminogen activator for acute ischemic stroke (alteplase, Activase).

  8. Zafar M, Mussa M, Memon RS, et al. Aspiration thrombectomy versus stent retriever thrombectomy alone for acute ischemic stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Cureus. 2020;12(5):e8380. doi:10.7759/cureus.8380

  9. Johns Hopkins Medicine. What is a surgical thrombectomy?