Strokes are most common in people over age 65, but 22-year-old college athlete Jason McClellan is part of the estimated 10 to 15 percent who suffer from the leading cause of disability in the United States.
A basketball player at the University of Illinois at Chicago, McClellan spoke to Fox32 to help raise awareness that stroke can happen at any age.
McClellan’s first stroke happened when he was home in Colorado, and the second occurred while he was in his Chicago-area townhome with his roommates. Quick thinking by his friends helped save his life.
"Right away I knew, I screamed for my other roommate to come out and help because I understood what was happening,” Rimantas Grabliauskas, one of McClellan’s roommates, told Fox32.
Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is restricted, causing brain cells to die from oxygen deprivation. Nearly 130,000 Americans die from stroke annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
McClellan’s doctor Dr. Ali Alaraj, a neurosurgeon at the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago, said it’s hard to predict a person’s chances of having a stroke, but some individuals are at a higher risk.
“More and more now, we're seeing younger patients affected with stroke,”Alaraj told Fox32. “The risk factors for stroke include diabetes, hypertension and smoking, [which] are more prevalent in the younger age group. So you tend to see more of those patients now at an earlier stage.”
A survey published in the November 2011 issue of the Annals of Neurology supports that idea. Researchers found that the prevalence of stroke hospitalizations increased among people ages 15 to 44, and this rise correlated with that of other chronic conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
McClellan has recovered from his strokes, but he is still managing their effects.
"My speech has changed a little bit, it's kind of hard to articulate when I talk to somebody now,” McClellan told Fox32. “But, I'm getting a lot better every day.”