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Death of former teen idol Luke Perry sparks interest in stroke risks

Posted at 11:23 PM, Mar 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 08:17:35-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — For an entire generation Luke Perry was the epitome of the cool, carefree teenage bad boy, but last week Perry had a massive stroke.

Fans were stunned when he died Monday at the age of 52.

RELATED: Actor Luke Perry dies at age 52 after suffering stroke

"It is unusual,” said Dr. Linda Johnson of P3 Medical Group Whitney Ranch. “But more and more young people are having a stroke."

A stroke is more common among the elderly, but it can happen at any age. In fact, one in three strokes occurs in people younger than 65.

Dr. Johnson explained that a stroke is damaging to the brain that happens typically for two reasons.

“One, blood supply gets blocked. And that can happen from a clot, or it can happen from like a cholesterol plaque that has broken off and gone to the brain,” Dr. Johnson said. “Or it can happen because you have a big bleed that damages that area of the brain."

The risk factors for stroke include uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol.

“Especially if you have diabetes with elevated cholesterol,” said Dr. Johnson. “I like to use the metaphor of the machine that lays down the asphalt on the pavement. If you have elevated blood sugar and elevated cholesterol you are laying down the plaque in your arteries just that efficiently."

You can remember the acronym FAST to recognize the symptoms of a stroke:

F is for facial drooping. If you ask the person to smile and their smile is crooked this could be a sign of a stroke.
A is for arm weakness. Someone having stroke may not be able to lift their arms.
S is speech difficulty. They may slur words or just have difficulty talking.
T is for time. If you or someone else have these symptoms it’s time to call 911 immediately.

"Time matters when you are having a stroke,” Dr. Johnson said. ”If we can intervene early enough, we can often times reverse those symptoms. "

Dr. Johnson said even with a family history, a healthy diet, exercise, and not smoking can all go a long way toward preventing stroke.