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Doctors say younger adults’ unhealthier lifestyles leading to increase in strokes for those under age 55

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Strokes are declining in people over age 55, but increasing in those younger than 55. Those are the findings of a new report in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Doctors are pointing to unhealthier lifestyles in young and middle-aged adults.

As a truck driver, Shannon Hoffer has encountered detours and obstacles, but none bigger than the ones he faces now.

"I never thought at age 48 I'd suffer a stroke like this," Hoffer said.

The new report finds higher stroke rates in people 35 to 54 compared to the end of the last century. In people 35 to 39, the rate has more than doubled.

A neurologist at the University of Kansas Hospital thinks one factor is that age group being more sedentary than baby boomers were.

"This is the video game, TV generation that would just as soon sit on the couch and watch a movie. Diet -- there's a lot more fast food around," Dr. Michael Rippee said.

That can lead to clogged arteries and strokes. Hoffer now realizes he was at high risk as a truck driver.

"You sit quite a bit. You don't get proper exercise. I'm diabetic and I smoked quite a bit," he said.

He encourages others to quit smoking, as he has, and to control other risk factors including high blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

"It's no different than the risk factors we see in older patients with stroke," Dr. Rippee said.

The neurologist also said everyone should know the warning signs which include sudden weakness, especially on one side of the body, and trouble speaking. When Hoffer had his stroke nearly two months ago, he drove all the way from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to Kansas City before getting medical attention. Prompt treatment can save brain cells and movement.

"I just didn't know at that time," Hoffer said.

He's improving in therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Kansas City. His goal is to return to driving a truck.

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