Stroke prevention: let's start in childhood
While strokes in childhood and very early adulthood are not likely caused by atherosclerotic risk factors, it does look like these risk factors increase throughout early and young adulthood and become significant risk factors for stroke in the 30s and 40s.
In a new case control study of data in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California system, which had been accumulating relevant data over a period of 14 years, from January 1, 2000, through December 31, 2014 the investigators found that both childhood cases and controls had a low prevalence of documented diagnoses of atherosclerotic risk factors (ARFs). The odds ratio (OR) of having any ARFs on arterial ischemic stroke was 1.87 for ages 0-9 years, and 1.00 for ages 10-19.
However, cases rose with age.
The OR was 2.3 for age range 20-29 years, 3.57 for age range 30-39 years, and 4.91 for age range 40-49 years.
The analysis also showed that the OR associated with multiple ARFs was 5.29 for age range 0-9 years, 2.75 for age range 10-19 years, 7.33 for age range 20-29 years, 9.86 for age range 30-39 years, and 9.35 for age range 40-49 years.
Multiple risk factors were rare in children but became more prevalent with each decade of young adult life.
This study tells us that, while stroke in adolescence and very early adulthood may not be caused by atherosclerotic risk factors, starting to accumulate those risk factors early in life clearly increases the risk of stroke in the 30s and 40s.
Prevention of cardiovascular disease begins in childhood.
The knowledge that atherosclerotic risk factors in children can lead to acceleration of atherosclerosis in later life opens the door to preventive medicine.