Stroke is among the top five causes of death and a leading reason for disability in Americans, according to the American Stroke Association. Close to 800,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke each year, and there are nearly seven million stroke survivors in the U.S.
Yet, there are many misconceptions about this serious medical emergency. Let’s separate fact from fiction as we debunk some common myths.
Myth #1: You can’t do anything to prevent stroke.
Fact: The good news is that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable, says the National Stroke Association. Smart lifestyle choices that reduce stroke risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes all lower your risk of having a stroke. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a heart-healthy diet are other ways to help prevent stroke and the cardiovascular disease that leads to stroke.
Myth #2: Stroke is something that happens to your heart.
Fact: Stroke affects the blood vessels of the brain and can lead to temporary or permanent damage to the brain. It occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, either because a clot is blocking an artery of the brain or an artery ruptures and bleeds into the brain.
Myth #3: There is no treatment for stroke.
Fact: There are some extremely effective treatments for stroke, and the sooner you seek medical treatment the better they work. Clot removal — using a device to enter the blocked artery and remove the blocking blood clot —is now the proven standard of care for stroke, with the most profound benefits. Tissue plasminogen (tPA) is a clot-dissolving drug that can break up a clot blocking blood flow to the brain. There are a number of procedures to remove clots or to stop hemorrhagic strokes, those caused by bleeding into the brain.
Myth #4: Aspirin is an effective home remedy for stroke.
Fact: Although it may be true that aspirin can be helpful in breaking up a clot during a heart attack, this is not always safe for a stroke. Aspirin could actually be harmful if you are having a stroke caused by bleeding into the brain. However, once stroke patients have been evaluated and started on aspirin by their doctors, aspirin is an excellent drug to stop another stroke from happening.
Myth #5: Stroke only affects the elderly.
Fact: A stroke can happen at any age, even in babies. In fact, the average age of stroke patients has been getting younger for more than a decade. Nearly 25 percent of strokes occur in people younger than age 65. Younger people may dismiss symptoms more easily, however, thinking that they are too young to have a stroke.
There are some extremely effective treatments for stroke, and the sooner you seek medical treatment the better they work.