The number of young people in Canada who will have a stroke is expected to double in the next fifteen years — and one Sudbury family found out just how young strokes can strike.

The prediction that comes from a new report from the Heart and Stroke foundation is hardly surprising to Anne Smith, whose daughter Sarah suffered a stroke.

Two years ago, Sarah caught a virus that infected her brain, causing a seizure — and then a stroke.

“We were in shock,” Smith said.

“We thought, ‘how could our three-and-a-half year old healthy child have a stroke?’”

sarah smith of sudbury, stroke

Sarah Smith was 3.5 years old when she had a stroke caused by a virus. The number of young people in Canada who will have a stroke is expected to double in the next 15 years, the Heart and Stroke Foundation reports. (Anne Smith)

It was all too familiar for Smith. Her father died a year earlier, also after a seizure and stroke.

“It was terrifying for us. Because all we could think was she was going to end up with the same long-term disabilities and potentially die.”

Babies can have strokes

Unlike her grandfather, Sarah—who is now five—was lucky.

She was in the hospital when the stroke happened and received treatment immediately, which saved her life.

Sarah is part of a growing trend of young stroke victims, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Spokesperson Ian Joiner said people don't think a stroke can happen to a young person.

"There are often newborns or even babies in utero who have strokes,” he said.

Despite the increase in strokes, there is good news. The rates of death from stroke have decreased by 40 per cent in the last decade.

But Smith noted people should be proactive and “take the risk assessment and keep their children in mind when they do it as well. There are so many different risk factors. Age is not the only one.”

He said an increase in type two diabetes, poor lifestyle and more complex medical issues are also to blame for the increase.