The number of strokes in people of working age has increased by a quarter since 2007.

A stroke is a condition traditionally associated with older people however the new figures show that is beginning to change.

An audit published by the Irish Heart Foundation and the HSE has found a 26% increase in strokes in people of working age.

Three quarters of them were men and 40% were smokers. 

The Irish Heart Foundation says significant investment is needed to better care for younger stroke survivors, who could be living with the effects for decades.

And that more must be done to provide them with more help to go back to work.

Currently just over 30% of stroke survivors who return to employment are working full time a year later.

Meanwhile, a new gene linked to "small blood vessel" strokes has been discovered that may improve understanding of the condition.

Researchers identified a gene called FOXF2 which increases the risk of having a stroke due to blocked small blood vessels in the brain.

Previous studies have identified genes linked to strokes caused by reduced blood flow to the brain, and bleeding.

Lead scientist Professor Sudha Seshadri, from Boston University Medical Center in the US, said: "Unravelling the mechanisms of small vessel disease is essential for the development of therapeutic and preventive strategies for this major cause of stroke."

The research highlights a novel biological pathway affecting pericytes, a type of cell in the walls of small arteries and capillaries.

Small blood vessel disease in the brain is also a major contributor to dementia risk and is associated with gait problems and depression, the scientists said.

The findings are published in the journal The Lancet Neurology.