6 Surprising Stroke Myths
Your brain is pretty amazing. It has about 100 billion cells called neurons that allow it to perform its many functions, controlling the entire body. It not only helps to regulate basic functions like breathing, blood pressure and heartbeat, it also helps you do everything from moving and thinking, to speaking and memory.
To continue working well, 24 hours a day, nonstop, your brain needs a constant supply of both oxygen and nutrients. When this steady flow of oxygen and nutrients is stopped or interrupted, the result is a stroke. Even if a stroke only lasts a few minutes, brain cells begin to die.
With nearly 795,000 people suffering from strokes each year, it’s important to ensure that you at least know the basics about it. To start, let’s debunk some of the most common stroke myths:
Myth 1: Strokes only happen in older white men.
The truth is a stroke can happen to anyone. While a majority of strokes occur in individuals older than 65, a quarter of strokes occur in those younger than 65. On top of that, women are more likely than men to suffer a stroke. In fact, it is estimated that 55,000 more women have a stroke than men every year.
Myth 2: You can’t prevent a stroke.
Surprisingly, stroke has some of the same risk factors as heart disease. Things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, unhealthy diet, a lack of exercise and smoking can all contribute to a higher risk of stroke. You have the power to significantly reduce your risk of stroke by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working with your doctor to determine your unique health needs.
Myth 3: A headache is the most common symptom of a stroke.
For about 30% of individuals who suffer a stroke a severe headache may be a symptom. However, it’s important to note that there are several other stroke symptoms to watch for. F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the most common signs of a stroke:
- F is for face drooping - One side of the face is drooping or numb. When the person smiles, the smile is uneven.
- A is for arm weakness - One arm is weak or numb. When the person lifts both arms at the same time, one arm may drift downward.
- S is for speech difficulty - You may notice slurred speech or difficulty speaking. The person can't repeat a simple sentence correctly when asked.
- T is for time to dial 911 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if they go away, call 911 immediately. Make note of the time the symptoms first appeared.
Myth 4: You’ll notice warning signs before a stroke.
Strokes are often very sudden and don’t show any warning signs or symptoms beforehand. However, once a stroke occurs, you will likely notice the common symptoms of facial drooping, weakness or numbness on one side of the body and speech difficulty.
Myth 5: Most strokes don’t last very long.
The length of time that you’ll experience symptoms can vary from person to person, but they will usually persist for more than 24 hours. On the other hand, a transient ischemic attack, or mini stroke, will likely only cause symptoms for only a few minutes or hours.
Myth 6: If you have a stroke, there’s no treatment option.
If you ever suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing a stroke, do not try to treat it on your own. Instead, call an ambulance right away. Not only is this the best way to ensure that you receive medical attention as soon as possible, but Emergency Medical Services will notify the Emergency Department while they’re transporting you so that they can begin preparing for your arrival.
At Gwinnett Medical Center’s Emergency Department, the Stroke Alert process begins with placing you in a dedicated stroke unit, with customized care provided by a team of stroke experts. If you are eligible, specialists will provide you with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which is the only FDA-approved clot-busting medicine.