03/02/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Mar 02, 2014

Some Young Stroke Patients May Face Problems Living Independently Later In Life

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Stroke is much more common in older people, with only about 10 percent of strokes occurring in adults younger than age 50. But a new study shows that for those who do experience a stroke in earlier adulthood, it's not uncommon to need assistance with daily activities or be unable to live independently a decade after the stroke occurred.

The study, published in the journal Stroke, shows that about one-third of people who experience a stroke between ages 18 and 50 have difficulty living independently a decade later.

Specifically, among those who experienced an ischemic stroke between ages 18 and 50, 36.5 percent of people had functional disability and 14.6 percent could not live independently nearly 10 years after experiencing the stroke.

And among people who experienced a hemorrhagic stroke between ages 18 and 50, 49.3 percent had functional disability and 18.2 percent did not possess independent living skills nearly a decade after the stroke.

For people who experienced a "mini-stroke" (transient ischemic attack), 16.8 percent had functional disability and 10.8 percent had poor independent living skills nearly a decade later.

"Even if patients seem relatively well recovered with respect to motor function, there may still be immense 'invisible' damage that leads to loss of independence," study researcher Frank-Erik de Leeuw, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands, said in a statement.

The study is based on 722 people who experienced a stroke when they were between ages 18 and 50. They were followed for an average of nine years, after which about one-third experienced moderate levels of disability. Some also experienced loss of independence (which included doing chores, caring for themselves or taking care of finances).

Researchers also found that the likelihood of disability and loss of independence increased if the participants experienced a second stroke over the follow-up time.