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5 stroke myths busted

5 stroke myths busted

Strokes are serious medical emergencies. They’re also preventable, but it’s critical that you understand the truth about strokes, not myths you may have heard.

As a doctor of neuroendovascular surgery at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis., I hear five myths especially frequently. Here’s the truth you need to know.

  1. Only elderly people suffer stroke: The myth about stroke only hitting the elderly is completely false. One in five stroke victims are between the ages of 20-55. The good news is that risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, tobacco, obesity, diabetes, inactivity and stress can be eliminated.
  2. Strokes are not preventable: In fact, 90% percent of strokes can be prevented by working with your health care professional to reduce your risk factors. One of the biggest studies on stroke, called the International Stroke Trial, examined risk factors and found that 90% of strokes can be attributed to vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, tobacco, obesity, diabetes, inactivity and stress — all of which are preventable to a large extent.
  3. If stroke symptoms pass, you don’t need treatment: When someone has temporary symptoms of a stroke, this is called transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a medical emergency. The difference between a TIA and a stroke is that the blood vessel that was blocked during a TIA opens before it causes permanent damage. A TIA means you have a high chance of having a stroke within the a week. It is critical to seek medial advice for any stroke symptoms even if they are temporary.
  4. Stroke warning signs are difficult to recognize: A test called BE FAST (Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Terrible Headache) can be used by anyone to identify up to 75% of strokes. Look for balance or coordination issues, sudden blurred, double or lost vision in one or both eyes, a facial droop, an arm or leg that goes weak, speech that is slurred or garbled and a terrible headache. The “T” can also mean “time,” representing the extreme urgency needed to get the person emergency care as quickly as possible to minimize damage to the brain. It is true that some strokes occur suddenly, with no warning signs or symptoms. Quick action to get medical care is essential in this case, as well.
  5. There is no treatment for stroke: About 85% of strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by a blood clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain. These strokes can be treated with a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), but it must be administered within 4.5 hours from the onset of the stroke. Some of the worst kinds of ischemic strokes can now be treated up to 24 hours from when the symptoms began with a surgery which utilizes specialized catheters and stents to remove the blood clot. This surgery is only done in select patients.

Know more about your risk for having a stroke – take a free, quick online risk assessment by clicking here.

Dr. Waldo Guerrero is a doctor of neuroendovascular surgery from the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis.

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About the Author

Dr. Waldo Guerrero
Dr. Waldo Guerrero

Dr. Waldo Guerrero is a doctor of neuroendovascular surgery from the Aurora Neuroscience Innovation Institute at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis.