Strokes hitting people younger and younger

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PHOENIX -- Stroke victims are becoming younger and younger, and facing a condition that can leave them with life-long disabilities. Valley resident Larry Davis is in his thirties and rebuilding his life all over again after suffering a stroke.

“It was an 80-hour work week literally, but it was a lot of fun,” Davis said.

Working long hours and being a new dad kept Davis busy. But his fast paced life would come to a screeching halt back in March.
 
“I felt a kind of weird dizziness, like I could almost barely walk,” Davis said.

Davis was rushed to the hospital. He had suffered a stroke. At 38-years-old, he was paralyzed on his right side and couldn't talk.

“There were many days that I recall wanting to end my life because I felt like I would never get better,” Davis continued.

But Davis is on the road to recovery. He's doing his rehab at St. Joseph's Barrow Neurological Institute.

“My memory is still affected, but it's much better than any of us projected,” Davis said.

But this condition isn't something we just see in older people.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery or a blood vessel breaks which then interrupts blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things occurs, brain cells start to die.

“They're more common in people over 60, but we're seeing more and more strokes happening in younger people for the same risk factors older people are getting strokes,” Dr. Sally Alcott said.
 
Alcott is with the Institute. She said those risk factors include diabetes, being overweight, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“Someone can tell you that your blood pressure is high, but it might not affect how you feel,” Alcott said. “So again, I think the more evidence people have to show that having a blood pressure that high, could be dangerous to them.”

But it comes down to managing those risk factors. Eating right, exercising and not smoking can make a big difference.

“I think if you can really tell people that the studies show if you do this, your risk will be reduced by this much, I think that it will help to motivate them,” Alcott said.

In Davis’ case, he knew he had high blood pressure for years. But he never got around to taking care of it, because he always thought he had more time.
 
“I would give anything to have that chance all over again,” Davis said. “Listen to your doctor. Don't think you can get it under control yourself, because you can't.”

For more information on stroke warning signs and prevention, log onto http://www.stjosephs-phx.org and www.heart.org.