Having a stroke in your 50s, like Luke Perry, is 'actually quite common'

Rachel Grumman Bender
·2 min read

Luke Perry died on Monday, five days after suffering a massive stroke. While fans and fellow celebrities, including former “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “Riverdale” co-stars — are reeling over the loss, many are shocked that this happened to someone only 52 years old.

“With the tragic and unfortunate and untimely death of Luke Perry, a lot of people are wondering what type of stroke he had and what types of strokes exist and how you can protect yourself,” Janette Nesheiwat, a family and emergency medicine physician, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Although it’s tragic when someone as young as Perry has a fatal stroke, Nesheiwat says, “It’s actually quite common for someone in their early 50s to have a stroke.”

She adds: “All together, there’s about 800,000 people each year that suffer from a stroke, but not all of them will die. And a portion of that number have actually had recurrent strokes.”

While it’s not yet clear what type Perry had, there are two types of stroke: ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke “usually results when blood flow can’t get to the tissue of the brain,” Nesheiwat explains. “Sometimes that can be caused by a clot or it can just be caused by blood vessel disease.” Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel leaks or ruptures and can be caused by hypertension or aneurysms, according to the Mayo Clinic.

So what puts you at risk for having a stroke? “If you’re a smoker, you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, if you don’t exercise, if you have diabetes, if your BMI [body mass index] is higher than it should be, if you’re not eating a good, well-balanced diet — this could put you at a higher risk of a stroke,” Nesheiwat says.

That’s why it’s so important to see your doctor routinely and regularly. “Get your cholesterol checked, get your blood sugar checked, get your blood pressure checked, because having these vital signs in order and these blood results in order can help protect you and save you from a stroke.”

Nesheiwat adds that it’s also helpful for people to know the signs of a stroke. “Anyone can save a life, anyone can help notice if a stroke is happening,” she says.

Remembering the word “F.A.S.T.” can help you quickly determine whether someone is suffering from a stroke. “The ‘F,’ that stands for facial drooping,” she says. “‘A’ arm weakness. Or you could have leg weakness, numbness and tingling in your arms and legs. Also, slurred speech [the ‘S’] is very important. If you see any of those things, then the ‘T’ — time to call 911 right away because anybody can save a life if you [recognize] those signs and symptoms.”

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