The Misconceptions of Stroke

Organization: Service: Story Topics:

For being the No. 1 cause of long-term disability, and the No. 4 cause of death in the U.S., stroke - or brain attack - is often one of the most misunderstood diseases. About 750,000 people in the U.S. will have a stroke this year. With that staggering statistic, most people can’t identify a stroke. And for those that do know what stroke is, and how to identify it, there are still many pieces of the puzzle that remain missing.

There are many misconceptions about stroke, when people think of stroke; many times they think it's something that only impacts the older adult population. The truth is that stroke can happen to anyone at any age, no matter their race or gender. But the fact remains that 80 percent of strokes can be prevented by managing controllable risk factors.

The more risk factors a person has, the greater the chance that he or she will have a stroke. Controllable risk factors generally fall into two categories: lifestyle risk factors or medical risk factors. Lifestyle risk factors can often be changed, while medical risk factors can usually be treated. Both types can be managed best by working with your doctor.

Controllable Risk Factors:

  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Circulation Problems
  • Tobacco Use and Smoking
  • Alcohol Use
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Obesity

Uncontrollable Risk Factors:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Family History
  • Previous Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack

In the world of stroke care, health care providers live by a simple saying: “Time is Brain.” There is a narrow window of opportunity – just a few hours – to evaluate, diagnose and treat a stroke victim. Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death.

There are two types of strokes: ischemic or hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke occurs as a result of a blockage within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. It accounts for approximately 87 percent of all stroke cases. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and spills blood into or around the brain. Treatment differs depending on the type of stroke.

More than 7 million people in the U.S. have survived a stroke. Although stroke is a disease of the brain, it can affect the entire function of the body leading to significant disability with long-lasting physical and emotional impact. It not only affects the person who suffered a stroke, but it also has a tremendous impact on their family.

A stroke is a medical emergency that must be dealt with in an expeditious manner so the best potential outcome can result. With the continued focus on research and innovative treatment options, in combination with education to the public, we hope to see the number of people affected decrease and that positive outcomes for those who do suffer a stroke will increase.

To recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke remember the acronym: F.A.S.T.

  • F: Facial Droop
  • A: Arm or leg weakness or numbness especially on one side of the body
  • S: Slurred Speech: Difficulty speaking or understanding speech/slurred speech
  • T: Time – A stroke is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately