Twins' Strokes At 26: Kathryn, Kimberly Tucker Suffer Strokes Months Apart

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 29, 2013 4:02 PM EDT

brain scan
Fraternal twins Kathryn and Kimberly Tucker both had strokes at the age of 26. Health officials warn that stroke risk in young people is on the rise. (Photo: NIMH.gov)

A pair of Arizona twins suffered strokes at 26 years old, only months apart from one another.

Last July, Kathryn Tucker of Tempe, Ariz., felt a sharp pain in the back of her head as she went to bed. Then her vision faltered and she began to feel numb. Tucker was taken to the hospital, where doctors said she was suffering a migraine with aura.

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"I was absolutely terrified," Tucker told ABC. "I slept for three days straight. Then, when I woke up, my vision was horrible. Everything was distorted and one-dimensional. I could barely get around."

Tucker hadn't had a migraine with aura -- she'd had a stroke.

Exactly nine months later to the day, Kathryn's sister Kimberly returned from running a race and took a nap. When she awoke, she felt a similar pain to the one her sister had had, and her thoughts were jumbled.

After caring for her sister Kathryn following her stroke, Kimberly knew she herself was having a stroke.

Katheryn and Kimberly are fraternal twins, so they don't have identical DNA, and their family has no history of strokes.

"The EMTs told me that the chance of both me and my sister having a stroke this young was that of being struck by lightning twice," Kimberly said.

Doctors say that the fact that the twins both were smokers, suffered migraines and used birth control pills increased their risk of a stroke.

Health officials have been warning that stroke risk in young people is rising.

In one recent 10-year period, the number of strokes in Americans under the age of 55 went up 84 percent among whites and 54 percent among blacks. One in five strokes now occurs in adults 20 to 55 years old. That's up from one in eight in the mid-1990s.

Those findings come from a study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which begins with the grim assertion, "Stroke is no longer considered a disease of old age."

So why is the stroke risk of young people rising?

According to the JAMA study, the likely contributing factors are increasing diabetes, obesity and recreational tobacco, drug and alcohol use. In another study, which found a 6 percent jump in strokes in people under 55 between the years of 1993 and 2005, the study's author came to the same conclusion.   

"The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol," said Dr. Brett Kissela.

But the jump in the number of strokes detected in young people may be explained, at least in part, by one other factor: more people now get MRIs done, so more strokes are likely to be detected. Stroke damage that might have not been diagnosed as such is more easily picked up by an MRI.

As for the Arizona twin stroke victims, Kathryn and Kimberly Tucker, they have both stopped smoking and taking birth control since having their strokes. While they are no longer able to drive, due to lingering vision troubles, they are otherwise in good health.

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