Busting the Top Three Myths about Strokes

042-08-16Strokes are the fourth-leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious disability in the United States. Even so, the majority of people know very little about these debilitating events—and fewer realize they might just be at risk.

“Half of all Americans have at least one main symptom that can lead to stroke; they have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or they smoke,” said Amanda Conn, a registered nurse and coordinator for the Stroke Center at Memorial Medical Center. “When you consider complexities like diabetes, heart disease or obesity, we’re literally walking time bombs.”

To help diffuse more than a few ticking bombs, Conn and other medical experts have busted the most common stroke myths—and these facts could save your life.

Myth: You can’t stop a stroke—they’re unpreventable.

Fact: Strokes are actually largely preventable through healthy lifestyle choices.

“Because some of the biggest risk factors for stroke are related to diabetes, heart disease and obesity, for the majority of people, by having a healthy diet and incorporating moderate exercise into your routine, you’re already taking huge leaps toward minimizing your risk of a stroke,” said Christopher McDowell, MD, specialist in the Emergency Department at Memorial Medical Center and assistant professor and residency program director at SIU School of Medicine.

His four tips to prevent stroke? They’re all about control. Control your blood pressure, control your blood sugar, control your cholesterol and control your weight. People who are a normal weight or closer to their ideal body weight have less risk of having a stroke.

Myth: Only the elderly have strokes.

Fact: Strokes can happen to people at any age…even babies.

While it’s true that the risk for having a stroke increases with age, people younger than 65 can have strokes. Even newborns can have strokes related to oxygen deprivation during the birthing process. And strokes affected those under age 65 are becoming more common.

“The risk of stroke is increasing, due to higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure at younger ages,” said Sajjad Mueed, MD, specialist in Neurology with SIU HealthCare.

Myth: Stroke symptoms should be severe before calling 911.

Fact: If you experience any signs of stroke, you should immediately call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room. New therapies and interventional procedures can improve the chances of recovering from a stroke, but the treatments can only be offered during the first few hours of the onset of symptoms.

“The more quickly stroke victims arrive at the hospital, the less permanent damage they may experience and the greater effect these services will provide,” Dr. McDowell said.