'Old' diseases in young people

3 women share their health stories, hope to help others

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - When you think of heart attacks, strokes, or skin cancer, you probably don't think of young people. However, these serious health problems are affecting women of all ages.

Meet three women who experienced health scares at ages 40, 30, and 15, that you might not think affect young women.

"It was very surreal," said Val Braaten.  "You don't think of it happening to you."

Focused on school and dance, Braaten was just 15 when an unexpected diagnosis of stage-two melanoma came.

"I never went to tanning beds, and I never was super irresponsible," she said.

Braaten had surgery to remove the mole and is now cancer-free. Statistics show this type of skin cancer is on the rise among kids. In fact, the rate of melanoma in children increased by about two percent per year between 1973 and 2009.

"That increase is at a rate that is actually greater than the rate of increase in any other malignancy that we currently treat," said Dr. Mark Ranalli, at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Jessie Porter thought she was a healthy 30-year-old, so when a bad headache hit, she didn't think much of it.

"It never occurred to me that it could possibly be a stroke. It didn't even cross my mind," Porter said.

However, it was a stroke. Studies show about one-third of strokes in women occur in those under 65. Jessie had a congenital abnormality that increased her chances by 25 percent.

"Often, there's no reason to be suspicious that you're at risk for stroke," explained Dr. Lisa Yanase, at Providence Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.

 K-C Maurer had three heart attacks at age 40.

"What went through my head at that point was ‘holy crap,'" Maurer said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,000 Americans ages 15 to 34 die from cardiac arrest. That's a 10 percent increase in the past decade.

"I, at that point, began changing my eating habits and my physical activity habits," Maurer explained.

That's a good plan to prevent a health problem at any age.

Another old disease that is overlooked is Parkinson's. It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson's disease, and 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. Because the majority of people who get Parkinson's disease are over age 60, it has been and continues to be thought of as an "older person's" disease. The disease is often overlooked in younger people, and many go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years.  About 10 to 20 percent of those diagnosed with Parkinson's disease are under age 50, and half of those are diagnosed before age 40, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association.

Primary Symptoms of Early Onset of Parkinson's:

Motor symptoms

  • Tremor (when limb is at rest)
  • Bradykinesia (slowness)
  • Rigidity (stiffness)
  • Postural instability (balance problems)

Non-motor symptoms

  • Changes in mood, especially depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Changes in thinking
  • Problems with low blood pressure, bowel, bladder and sweating
  • Skin changes

It is important to know that not all of these symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Younger people may only notice two or three of these, especially in the early stages of the disease. If you suspect PD, see a neurologist or movement disorders specialist.

(Source: http://www.youngparkinsons.org/what-you-should-know-about-early-onset-parkinsons-disease/symptoms/information)

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