On July 17, 2023, Alex McKeown experienced a life-changing event during a workout at his fitness center. Initially feeling lightheaded, he soon lost his balance and noticed weakness in his left hand. Prompt action from the fitness instructor and staff led to a 911 call and McKeown being diagnosed with a stroke at Northwestern Hospital.
Strokes in young people are less common but can happen to anyone. Dr. Ali Shaibani, who treated McKeown, initially suspected a tear in a blood vessel as the cause, but further examination ruled that out. McKeown was found to have a bicuspid aortic valve and an aortic aneurysm, but it is unclear if these conditions contributed to his stroke.
Prompt treatment is crucial in stroke cases, as the brain can lose millions of cells per minute. McKeown received medication to dissolve the clot and underwent a thrombectomy to restore circulation. High blood pressure is another common cause of strokes in young people, according to a recent study in Israel. Adolescents with a history of hypertension had twice the risk of strokes compared to those without.
The role of adolescent high blood pressure as a risk factor for strokes in young people is an area that requires further research. Screening for hypertension among adolescents could help identify those at risk. Other risk factors for strokes in young people are similar to those in older age groups, including smoking and diabetes.
McKeown acknowledges that he may have dismissed his symptoms if not for the concern and quick action of those around him. It is essential to recognize stroke symptoms and seek medical attention immediately. McKeown encourages others to call 911, even if the chance of it being something serious is small.
McKeown's recovery was described as miraculous due to the quick medical response. However, he still experiences some residual symptoms but remains active and plans to address his heart conditions through surgery.
Dr. Shaibani emphasizes the need for regular check-ups, especially for young people who may not visit their doctors frequently. Identifying and managing conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can help prevent strokes.
McKeown's story serves as a reminder that strokes can happen at any age, and it is crucial not to dismiss the signs. Recognizing stroke symptoms and seeking immediate medical attention can save lives.