WASHINGTON, April 3 (UPI) -- Over a four-year period, insomniacs between the ages of 18 and 35 were eight times more likely to suffer a stroke. Those same patients were also 54 percent more likely to end up in the hospital as the result of a stroke.
According to the health study -- which was conducted by researchers in Taiwan -- the association between insomnia and stroke is statistically insignificant after the age of 35.
The majority of strokes are suffered by people over age 65, young people aren't immune. Some 10 to 15 percent of all strokes affect patients 45 years old and younger (a risk of 1 in 1,000).
The researchers came to their findings by analyzing the health records of 21,000 patients suffering from insomnia with records for 64,000 non-insomniac patients in a control group.
"We feel strongly that individuals with chronic insomnia, particularly younger persons, see their physician to have stroke risk factors assessed and, when indicated, treated appropriately," said lead author Dr. Ya-Wen Hsu. "Our findings also highlight the clinical importance of screening for insomnia at younger ages. Treating insomnia is also very important, whether by medication or cognitive therapy."
Insomnia can vary in severity, from occasional restlessness during the night and trouble falling asleep to chronic sleeplessness. Dr. Hsu and his fellow researchers found evidence that the more severe the insomnia, the greater the risk of stroke.
The study was recently published in Stroke, an American Heart Association journal.
Health experts aren't entirely sure why sleep problems might contribute to the risk of stroke, but previous studies have shown insomnia to be associated with systematic inflammation, unstable blood sugar, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems.
Exercise, diet, alcohol, cigarettes and stress are other factors that are strongly associated with stroke risks.
[American Heart Association]