Certain myths about stroke—though scientifically wrong—can seem to make sense, especially when they are rooted in old theories. Sadly, these myths can lead to needless worry and even hinder good prevention and treatment decisions. To make you learn more about stroke and to better understand how it is unique from a heart attack, we thought of highlighting some common myths versus the facts associated with stroke. Here we go:
1. Stroke is rarer than most diseases
It may come as a shock, but stroke isn’t that rare disease. In fact, brain injuries resulting from strokes are a major cause of adult disability in the world. Knowing that stroke was the second most frequent cause of death in 2015 could intimate you to understand more about the disease and be more equipped to work towards its prevention. This can also make a huge difference to your unhealthy lifestyle.
2. Stroke is another form of heart attack
Strokes are often misunderstood as synonymous with heart attacks. While heart disease and stroke are closely related, they are not the same. Stroke takes place in the brain. The nervous cells in the brain require blood flow and oxygen in blood to survive and function. If the blood supply to these cells is cut off (either due to a blood clot or a disease of the blood vessels), the nervous cells begin to die. And that’s what a stroke is.
Then, why did such confusion (that stroke takes place in the heart) surface? Well, sometimes, stroke is caused by heart problems. Also, the risk factors for stroke are nearly the same as those for overall heart disease.
3. Strokes only happen to elderly people
While elderly people may tend to have a higher rate of stroke risk, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, age is not necessarily a factor. In fact, there’s an increasing number of strokes in people between the age of 18 and 65. The increased risk for stroke in younger people is linked to the growing incidence of obesity and high blood pressure. Adults in middle age, in their 40s and 50s, may be more susceptible, especially if they are smokers and have other underlying risk factors.
“More men than women have strokes” is also a myth that we need to burst here. About 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year.
4. The most common sign of a stroke is pain
Various research reports reveal that only 30% of victims will have a headache. Unlike heart attacks and the associated chest pain, strokes are often painless. The most common symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness or weakness on one side, double vision, confusion, lack of coordination, and trouble speaking and understanding those around you. To make recognizing stroke symptoms quickly, acronym FAST has been coined. Read here what it is.
5. Taking aspirin can treat a stroke at home
While taking an aspirin can be helpful in case of a heart attack, it could potentially make the situation worse if you are experiencing bleeding (in case of hemorrhagic stroke). As soon as you recognize a stroke, your priority should be getting the treatment as quickly as possible.
Also, laying down and waiting for the symptoms of a stroke to blow over is the last thing you should do.
6. If stroke symptoms pass, you don’t need treatment
It is often passed on that if you have a mini-stroke (TIA), you don’t need to see a doctor. Wrong. When someone has temporary symptoms of stroke, it’s also a medical emergency. In fact, someone who’s had a TIA has a high chance of having a stroke within a week.
Remember, every stroke requires immediate medical attention. Prompt treatment could be the difference between making a full recovery versus having severe stroke-led impairments.
7. Strokes aren’t preventable
The notion that strokes can’t be prevented is probably the biggest myth. 90% of strokes can be attributed to risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity and all of which are preventable in most cases. By managing the underlying risk factors, the risk of having a stroke can be significantly reduced.
As far as prevention of recurrent stroke is concerned, 80% of strokes can be prevented by working with your healthcare professional to reduce personal risk. Positive lifestyle changes, healthy diet, regular exercising and quitting smoking can cut on your stroke risk significantly.
8. Strokes are completely hereditary
This is partially true. It is found that if a close relative (parent, grandparent, brother or sister) has had a stroke, you are at a higher risk of suffering a stroke. However, the notion of “I cannot do anything about preventing a stroke because of my family medical history” is not completely true either.
While family history is potentially a contributing factor, there are many things that can increase or reduce your risk of having a stroke. You can always attempt to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, atrial fibrillation (irregular/rapid heart rate), atherosclerosis (thickening of artery walls), circulation problems, obesity, physical inactivity tobacco use and alcohol use to take charge of your health.
9. It is impossible getting past Plateau after stroke
While most of the healing takes place in the first few months, continuing therapy for years after a stroke can still yield positive results. In fact, a shift in mindset and making little changes to lifestyle is all it takes to break the plateau. Here is a dedicated blog that can help you dissect that plateau and get past it.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Deepak Kr. Nain. He is a certified therapist who specializes in the field of rehabilitation. Deepak possesses a clinical expertise in prescribing the best solutions to help people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).