Is COVID-19 causing strokes in younger people?

July 15, 2020 Swedish Health Team

Areas hardest hit by the pandemic are seeing stroke patients in their 30s and 40s 

  • Ignoring stroke symptoms can lead to permanent damage or even death.
  • B.E.F.A.S.T. to protect your health.
  • Swedish is taking special precautions to ensure your safety when seeking care.


Large vessel strokes are not typically a concern for people in their 30s and 40s, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) may be changing that assumption. Hospitals in communities with high rates of infection are seeing strokes in people under 50 who test positive for COVID-19, according to a few accounts, including a case report published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine

The patients identified in the report had a range of symptoms and outcomes. Still, many shared one characteristic—they delayed seeking care when their symptoms began “because they were concerned about going to a hospital during the pandemic.” Several hospitals located in areas hardest-hit by COVID-19 are reporting similar trends.

Healthcare providers in Washington state are not seeing their stroke numbers rise, but they caution that ignoring the signs of stroke could lead to catastrophic results. 

"Fortunately, we're not seeing the same trends that places like New York or New Jersey saw, with young people having strokes," said Michelle Provencher, MS, BSN, RN, Senior Manager of Regional Stroke Services at Swedish. "It's possible that people are staying home and afraid to come to the hospital because of COVID-19.”


A stroke occurs when the blood flow to your brain is interrupted, which disrupts the oxygen supply and kills the brain cells located there. Large vessel strokes happen when a blood clot blocks the flow of blood into one of your brain's main arteries, obstructing the smaller branches of your brain in that area. Large vessel strokes cause significant damage to your brain and the rest of your body—leading to major health challenges or even death.

No matter how old you are, the faster you get care the better. The symptoms can come on quickly. Delaying care could be a fatal mistake. 

No matter how old you are, the faster you get care the better. The symptoms can come on quickly. Delaying care could be a fatal mistake. Just a few hours can make the difference between recovery and re-learning basic life skills.

“It’s a timely treatment. You have a limited amount of time to treat the stroke as effectively as possible and seconds matter when you’re making the decision to call 9-1-1,” said Michelle.

The American Stroke Association recommends this easy-to-remember guide to help you recognize the signs of a stroke and B.E.F.A.S.T.

Seven safety steps

If you or someone you know is showing signs of a stroke, don’t delay care. It’s safe to come to the hospital. The healthcare team at Swedish has put seven safety steps into place to ensure your safety while you receive the care you need.

  • SCREENING. We conduct routine coronavirus symptom screening on patients, visitors and employees. 
  • MASKING. Our facilities have adopted policies that align with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • DISTANCING. We’re taking steps to ensure appropriate distance between you and other patients, visitors and staff. 
  • SANITIZING. Our staff are regularly cleaning waiting areas and exam rooms in between visits, and hand sanitizer stations are located throughout our facilities. 
  • SEPARATING. COVID-19 patients, as well as those caring for them, are safely isolated from the rest of the population. 
  • VISITORS. We are limiting people coming into our facilities to those deemed essential. This helps maintain appropriate physical distancing and reduces spread of germs.
  • VIRTUAL VISITS. For on-demand and routine medical care, we offer virtual visits – a reliable way to see your provider from the comfort your own home.

“Some COVID-19 symptoms can increase the risk of stroke. We don’t want you to wait. If you have signs of a stroke, we want you to call 9-1-1. We want you to come into the hospital,” said Michelle. “We are doing everything we can to ensure your safety when you visit.”

If you need care, don’t delay. Learn more about your options.


Find a doctor

The experts at Swedish can help you understand your health risks and when you should take immediate action. Find a doctor you can trust in our provider directory.

Related resources

Signs of a stroke and actions you should take

How Swedish is managing the COVID-19 crisis

Need care? Get care. Washington’s hospitals are here.

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional’s instructions.

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