Blocked arteries are known for causing two medical emergencies: heart attacks and strokes. While a heart attack occurs when an artery leading to the heart is blocked, a stroke occurs when an artery leading to the brain is blocked. Because of this connection, strokes are sometimes called brain attacks. Unfortunately, people tend to know more about heart attacks than strokes, leading to a lot of myths surrounding this medical emergency.
The more you know about strokes, the quicker you can seek medical attention if you spot the signs of a stroke in you or a loved one.
In an effort to spread more awareness about strokes, Dr. Henock Saint-Jacques created this guide.
Myth: Strokes only happen to the elderly
Fact: Although your risk of having a stroke increases with age, strokes aren’t limited to just the elderly. About 15% of strokes occur in people between the ages of 15 and 50.
Myth: There’s only one type of stroke
Fact: There are many types of strokes, including:
- Ischemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots and account for 87% of all strokes
- Hemorrhagic strokes, caused by burst blood vessels
- Transient ischemia (TIA) strokes, caused by a temporary blot clot
- Cryptogenic strokes, which have no known cause
All strokes, regardless of the type, should be taken seriously.
Myth: Strokes hurt
Fact: Not all strokes cause pain. Hemorrhagic strokes may cause headaches if a blood vessel bursts, but not all strokes cause headaches. Confusion, dizziness, facial drooping, and loss of coordination could be your only symptoms.
In other words, even if you’re not hurting, a stroke is still a medical emergency.
Myth: It’s impossible to tell if someone is having a stroke
Fact: You can use the FAST acronym to spot the signs of a stroke in another person.
- Face: Do you notice any facial drooping?
- Arms: Does the person report arm weakness? Can they hold their arms over their head?
- Speech: Is the person slurring his or her words? Slurring speech is a major stroke sign.
- Time: Act fast! If you notice these stroke symptoms, it’s time to call 911 immediately.
Note: You might also notice these symptoms in yourself. Additional symptoms of a stroke include confusion (difficulty speaking or understanding), sudden problems seeing clearly, dizziness, and headache.
Myth: Taking aspirin treats a stroke
Fact: Taking aspirin doesn’t treat a stroke. Although it’s true that 911 operators sometimes tell heart attack victims to take aspirin, the same doesn’t apply to strokes. The American Stroke Association doesn’t recommend taking aspirin during a stroke because not all strokes are caused by blocked blood vessels. (Many strokes are caused by blocked vessels, but burst vessels also cause strokes.) Taking aspirin with a burst blood vessel isn’t advisable.
Myth: You can’t prevent strokes
Fact: You can reduce your risk of having a stroke. The best way to help prevent a stroke is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking. Healthy habits like these may reduce your risk of developing conditions that lead to strokes, as when arteries become clogged with fatty substances.
Can you prevent future strokes too? While strokes require emergency medical care, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of a future stroke. Dr. Saint-Jacques may also suggest surgery to prevent another stroke. For instance, he may recommend a carotid endarterectomy during which he removes plaque from your affected arteries. Angioplasty and stents are other options too.
Questions about strokes? Don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at our East Harlem, New York, practice. You can reach us at 646-381-218 or via our website.