When former 90210 actor Luke Perry died of a massive stroke, it surprised a lot of people, especially considering his age. The actor was 52 years old.

While the majority of strokes happen in people over 65, a stroke specialist at Vanderbilt Medical Center has seen an increase in younger stroke patients. The reason could be boiled down to one word, lifestyle.

From excessive drinking to vaping, Dr. Howard Kirshner says young people are taking too many chances with their health and it can lead to dramatic problems not too far down the road.

"I think some of it is related to lifestyle issues..." said Kirshner.

If and when a younger person suffers a stroke, like in Luke Perry's case, it can be fatal within days.

"It seems younger stroke patients tend to get into more trouble from brain swelling, they even have to have an operation, where part of the skull is taken off to allow room for the brain to expand," said Kirshner.

Dr. Kirshner says usually, the brain shrinks as people age, so older people don't have that problem.

Here's how to tell if a person is having a stroke. The signs are easy to spot.

"Sudden loss of vision, inability to speak or understand language, weakness on one side of the body; those are the three most important ones," said Kirshner.

Dr. Kirshner says older people tend to get their blood pressure checked regularly, unlike younger people.

"High blood pressure, being the most common and most important one, a lot of young people don't know they have high blood pressure," said Kirshner.

While fewer people are smoking, younger people are taking up a far more dangerous habit.

"I think that more people are vaping; that may be almost a bigger problem as smoking cigarettes," said Kirshner.

Five simple steps young and older people should take: exercise, eat a healthier diet, avoid stress, don't smoke, and do not drink excessively.

Copyright 2019 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Anchor/Reporter

Alan Frio is the anchor of News4's evening newscasts on Saturdays and Sundays.

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