Why are more young people having strokes?

We talked to an Upstate man who has a strong message
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 5:16 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - An Upstate man has a message after having a stroke at just 32-years old.

According to doctors, he’s part of a growing group; more and more young people are having strokes each year.

In addition to lifestyle risk factors, many young people don’t see a primary care physician, which is key to catching underlying conditions.

“All of the sudden I lost control of the right side of my body and lost the ability to speak and was kind of going in and out of consciousness,” Nico DiNunzio said.

DiNunzio only remembers fragments of what happened next.

“All I remember is everyone kind of scurrying around, saying call 911. Call 911,” DiNunzio said.

He doesn’t remember being rushed to Prisma Hospital or being wheeled into the stroke center last August.

“It’s a race against time and unfortunately, the way I had my symptoms was very quick. It was boom, I’m having a stroke,” DiNunzio said.

Doctors gave him TPA, medicine that can reverse a stroke if given within a few hours.

“Once I did regain that memory of what was going on it really was a flip of the switch. It’s time for me to get better. I knew that I had right-side numbness. I knew I had this vision loss. It was time to overcome them,” DiNunzio said.

Scans revealed he had a underlying heart condition called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO.

“I had a massive hole in my heart that allowed that blood clot to travel through to my brain,” DiNunzio said.

Hailey Bieber recently opened up about being diagnosed with the same condition.

Back in April, the 25-year-old model said she had a mini-stroke and underwent surgery to repair the hole in her heart.

“Our age group, yes, we go to the doctor. Yes, we go to the dentist, but it’s so much more that,” DiNunzio said, “Nobody would have told me to go to the cardiologist and check my heart.”

Up to 15 percent of strokes occur in people under age 45. Recent research from the American Heart Association has shown a rise in risk factors.

“High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and basically modifying our lifestyle factors can eliminate those risk factors,” Dr. Imran Chaudry, Neurointerventional Surgeon with Prisma Health said, “If we can quit smoking, have a healthy diet, and exercise, those are the best things we can do to help prevent having a stroke.”

For the next six months, DiNunzio attended the Young Stroke Program at Roger C. Peace.

“While in therapy, you don’t normally see many 32-year-olds coming in with a stroke. Ever since I had my stroke its opened up the world to me of young stroke patients and that’s my mission to be able to help people go through this process, DiDunzio said.

Nine months later, DiNunzio said life is returning to a new normal. He still has some right-sided vision loss and tingling, but is on the way to making a full recovery.

The American Heart Association has tips to help lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.