"Women 45 to 54 years of age are more than twice as likely as men to have a stroke," Goldstein said. "Women in the 45 to 54 year age group have a more than four-fold higher likelihood of having had a stroke than women 35 to 44 years of age."
While stroke risk does indeed go up as people get older, stroke risk has increased in the younger population. Many doctors say the obesity epidemic is to blame for an increase in heart disease and stroke among people in their 20s and 30s.
"The risk of stroke in young healthy people is still 'small,' but stroke can occur at any age from before birth to death," said Dr. Joe Broderick, chairman of the department of neurology at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and director of the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Stroke Team.
"Risk factors for stroke include diabetes, hypertension, smoking and heart disease, but you can still have a stroke without any of those risk factors," Broderick said.
There are two different kinds of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic occurs when a blood vessel to the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. These clots can be caused by clogged arteries or blood clots that form in other parts of the body and travel through the blood and get stuck in the small arteries of the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel becomes weak and bursts open, causing blood leakage in the brain.
Signs of a stroke are sudden weakness in one side of the face, sudden weakness or numbness in either arm or leg, problems with speech, sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes and sudden loss of balance and coordination. A sudden severe headache can also be a "less specific" sign of stroke, as well.
"The headache would be very different than any other headache that's been experienced before," Broderick said. "Stroke is something that involves an area or focus of brain. It's generally on one side of the body and comes over seconds to hours."
Strokes usually appear suddenly and without warning. Stroke sufferers often cannot communicate well, so calling for help can prove difficult.
If you see a person potentially suffering from a stroke, Goldstein said, "Call 911. Don't delay."
And Broderick said the aftermath and long-term effects of stroke highly depend on how long the episode lasted and the recovery period.
"It's a matter of how much brain was damaged," Broderick said. "The younger you are, the better for recovery."