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Study Shows Younger Patients May Ignore Stroke Symptoms

Shepherd Center physician encourages people of all ages to know the signs of stroke, seek medical attention quickly.

A national survey by Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center has found that younger patients may underestimate the urgency of stroke symptoms and delay seeking medical help. Only one in three participants under the age of 45 said they were likely to visit the hospital within the first three hours of symptoms.

“It’s human nature to tend to ignore what we don’t want to believe, and that is particularly true in younger adults when it comes to health issues,” says Andrew Dennison, M.D., a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician and medical director of the Acquired Brain Injury Program at Shepherd Center. “They are often so busy with career and family that they can’t imagine something like a stroke happening to them.”

Knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, such as those described in the FAST acronym below, and seeking emergency care can minimize brain damage and potentially save the life of the patient. Call 9-1-1 right away if you have these symptoms:

  • Face: The smile is not symmetrical, or one side of the face droops.
  • Arms: The person cannot raise both arms equally.
  • Speech and/or swallow: There may be sudden slurring of speech and inability to talk, and/or there may be difficulty swallowing, like choking or coughing.
  • Time: Time lost is brain lost. Think “brain attack” like heart attack.

Common symptoms of stroke include numbness, weakness or tingling in your face, arms or leg, especially on one side of the body; difficulty walking or feeling off balance, unsteady or dizzy; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; confusion and severe headache.

“I strongly encourage everyone to learn the FAST acronym and the signs of stroke, as well as to seek timely medical treatment so they can receive treatment as quickly as possible,” Dr. Dennison says. “This is critical because many of the potentially beneficial interventions must occur within a matter of a few hours to even be considered.”

To learn more about stroke rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, visit

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.