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Surprising Stroke Findings

New research released this week at the International Stroke Conference tells a surprising story about the new face of strokes.

CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton explained three findings from the conference on "The Early Show" Friday, and what they mean for you.

Special Section: Dr. Jennifer Ashton

Bad News:
Stroke Rises Among Young:

A study shows more young people are having strokes. The percentage of people age 20 to 45 who had a stroke in 2005 was up 7.3 percent from 1993 to 1994 when it was 4.5 percent.

Ashton explained this is really bad because stroke is the leading cause of disability, which could mean a lot of productive life lost.

The analysis, she said, suggested that a possible reason was an increase in risk factors (diabetes, obesity, and coronary heart disease) being seen in younger patients. Interestingly, they also found a decrease incidence in older patients older than 65. The study also considered increase use of MRI over this time period as a contributing factor which is more sensitive than CT scanning for detecting a stroke.

If the higher risk factors are the cause, then it suggests that our younger population is not taking good care of themselves and putting themselves at higher risk of stroke than previous generations. The increased obesity observation is important because it correlates with higher chance of developing diabetes and heart disease, which are both major risk factors for stroke.

Good News:
Coffee May Mean Less Risk of Stroke:

A new study shows that regular coffee drinkers, whether drinking caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee were 29 percent less likely to have stroke than non-coffee drinkers.

"(This is) good news for java-lovers," Ashton said. "… This new research confirms previous research that coffee is associated with a lower risk of a major risk factor for stroke, type II diabetes."

Surprising News:
Bad Marriages, More Strokes:

A study shows unhappily married men and single men may have an increased risk of fatal strokes.

Ashton explained, "There's some preliminary research that found that single men appear to have a greater risk of dying from a stroke than those who are happily married. They were 64 percent more likely to die from stroke than happily married men -- and those who were unhappily married, they had just as high of a risk."

Ashton said the researchers believe those in happily wedded bliss gave their partner medical protection and support -- by giving them reminders to take medication or watching their diet, or they'd be able to get their spouse immediate help when an event like a stroke occurs.

Ashton also shared some stroke prevention tips from The American Stroke Association:

• High blood pressure - High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke and the most important controllable risk factor for stroke. Many people believe the effective treatment of high blood pressure is a key reason for the accelerated decline in the death rates for stroke.

• Cigarette smoking - In recent years, studies have shown cigarette smoking to be an important risk factor for stroke. The nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke damage the cardiovascular system in many ways. The use of oral contraceptives combined with cigarette smoking greatly increases stroke risk.

• Diabetes - Diabetes is an independent risk factor for stroke. Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and are overweight. This increases their risk even more. While diabetes is treatable, the presence of the disease still increases your risk of stroke.
• High blood cholesterol - People with high blood cholesterol have an increased risk for stroke. Also, it appears that low HDL ("good") cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke in men, but more data are needed to verify its effect in women.

• Poor diet - Diets high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium (salt) can contribute to increased blood pressure. Diets with excess calories can contribute to obesity. Also, a diet containing five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day may reduce the risk of stroke.

• Physical inactivity and obesity - Being inactive, obese or both can increase your risk of high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So go on a brisk walk, take the stairs, and do whatever you can to make your life more active. Try to get a total of at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days.
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