Stroke myths debunked

Do you know the truth about strokes?

Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association. But what do you really know about strokes? Here are some myths that some believe about stroke — and the facts.

Do you know your risk for stroke?

Take a stroke assessment

Do you know the signs of a stroke?


If you think someone might be having a stroke, remember to BE FAST to get help:

Balance: Is the person having trouble walking? Do they have a loss of balance or coordination or dizziness?

Eyes: Is the person having trouble seeing? Has the person had a change in vision in one or both eyes?

Face: Ask the person to smile. Does the smile look even? Warning sign — One side of the face does not move as well as the other.

Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drop down? Warning sign — One arm does not move, or one arm drifts.

Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence such as, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Does the person have trouble speaking or seem confused? Warning sign — The person slurs words or cannot speak.

Time: Call 911 immediately; time lost = brain lost. Let emergency responders know the last time you saw the person well. More advanced treatment options may be available if medical care is received within three hours of the start of symptoms.

Another symptom could be a sudden, very severe headache

Remembering these steps could save the life of someone you care about.

*Adapted from Intermountain Healthcare. BE FAST was developed by Intermountain Healthcare, as an adaptation of the FAST model implemented by the American Stroke Association. Reproduced with permission from Intermountain Healthcare. Copyright 2011, Intermountain Healthcare.

Myth: It’s hard to tell when someone is having a stroke.

Fact: A kindergartner was able to tell his mom was having a stroke. He may not have known what a stroke looks like, but he knew something was wrong. If you think someone might be having a stroke, use the BE FAST* (Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Time) test. Call 911 if you see someone having signs of a stroke.

Myth: Strokes only happen to older people.

Fact: Strokes can happen to people of any age, even infants. Nearly a quarter of strokes occur in people younger than age 65. The warning signs of stroke are the same no matter your age. It’s important not to ignore them, thinking it can’t happen to you.

Myth: Women don’t have strokes.

Fact: Women have a slightly higher risk of stroke than men — it is the third leading cause of death for women (and the fifth leading cause of death for men), according to the National Stroke Association. In general, women tend to live longer, which can increase their stroke risk.

Myth: You can treat a stroke at home by taking aspirin.

Fact: Aspirin could make the condition worse, especially the stroke is a bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke. If you or someone you love is having a stroke, the best thing you can do is call 911. Every minute of speed treating a stroke can reduce recovery time by one month.

Myth: There’s nothing you can do to prevent a stroke.

Fact: There’s a lot you can do to prevent a stroke. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers with your primary care provider can help. Your provider can work with you to help manage any conditions you have that increase your risk, including diabetes. Watching your weight and eating a heart-healthy diet also is important.

Myth: A stroke is a type of heart attack or seizure.

Fact: Stroke and heart disease are closely related, but they are not the same. A stroke is a disease of the blood vessels of the brain that leads to brain damage. A clog in an artery or a ruptured blood vessel can cause a stroke, which can occur along with a severe headache or seizures.

Myth: A stroke always has warning signs.

Fact: Some people experience transient ischemic attacks — often called “mini strokes,” which can foretell a future stroke. However, many people have a stroke with no warning signs and no symptoms, other than the stroke itself.

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