Many young adults in the U.S. are suffering strokes now in previous decades, says a new study. Researchers attribute it to unhealthy lifestyle choices that have been on the rise in recent times.

The data for the study came from the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. Researchers looked at incidences of stroke in people between the ages of 20 and 54. Researchers found that between 1993 and 2005, the incidents of stroke doubled in people who were less than 50 years of age.

Stroke rates increased in both African-American and Caucasian adults. For African-Americans, the stroke rate went from 83 strokes per 100,000 people in 1993-1994 to 128 per 100,000 in 2005. For Caucasians, the number of strokes increased from 26 strokes per 100,000 people in 1993-94 to 48 per 100,000 in 2005.

"The reasons for this trend could be a rise in risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol. Other factors, such as improved diagnosis through the increased use of MRI imaging may also be contributing," said Brett Kissela, MD, with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and one of the study authors.

The researchers found that just 18 percent of all stroke patients in their study had an MRI in 1993-1994 but by the year 2005 the rate jumped to 54 percent. While that is a positive trend, Americans can do more to improve their overall health. The current global obesity epidemic has played a role in the increased number of strokes in younger individuals.

Diets high in saturated fat, trans fats and cholesterol can raise blood cholesterol levels. Diets high in sodium can contribute to increased blood pressure, says the American Heart Association (AHA), also excess calories from the diet can increase the risk of obesity that can increase chances of other health complications including stroke. Experts say that controlling what you eat can help lower the risk of stroke.

"The good news is that some of the possible contributing factors to these strokes can be modified with lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise. However, given the increase in stroke among those younger than 55, younger adults should see a doctor regularly to monitor their overall health and risk for stroke and heart disease," said Kissela.

The study was published in the journal Neurology.