Stroke is a medical condition wherein there is a sudden cut-off of oxygen to your brain due to narrowed arteries, leading to brain cell damage and subsequent effects. Due to its nature, this condition is categorized as a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the prevalence of Strokes is high, and they are considered to be among the top five causes of death and disability. In spite of strokes being prevalent, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions that need to be clarified.
What are the types of Strokes?
Before we begin busting myths and unleashing facts that surround a stroke, you must know that there are two types of stroke –
● Ischaemic: These strokes form the majority of those that occur. They are a result of blockage or clot in a blood vessel that supplies your brain.
● Haemorrhagic: This type of stroke occurs due to a weak blood vessel that ruptures.
Debunking stroke myths with facts
● Strokes mostly occur in older people
The reason for this myth is that your risk of stroke increases as you grow older. However, it is a myth that strokes occur only in the elderly. Anyone between the ages of 18 upwards can suffer a stroke, but the risk grows higher with age.
In fact, the incidences of stroke are increasing in the young due to unhealthy lifestyles, increased stress, high blood pressure levels, etc.
● A stroke occurs in the heart.
There is a general misconception that stroke occurs in the heart. However, the fact is that a stroke originates in the brain. When oxygen to your brain cells is cut-off, the neurons begin to degenerate and cause injury to the brain. This is essentially what a stroke is.
● You cannot prevent a stroke.
If you have been told that you cannot prevent a stroke, this is a myth! The biggest research studies on stroke have confirmed that in over 90% of cases, strokes can be linked to high-risk factors such as hyperglycemia, hypertension, hyperlipidemia condition, and obesity.
These risk factors can be effectively prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.
● Strokes cannot be treated.
Another myth that you may have come across is that once you are struck by stroke, it cannot be treated. However, the fact is that if you seek medical attention and treatment within the golden hour of the onset of stroke symptoms, the effects of the stroke can be reversed.
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● Strokes are more common in men.
Is one gender better protected than the other from a stroke? Yes. Are men more susceptible? Well, In fact, men tend to be at higher risk of having a stroke at an early age; women suffer from a stroke in later age. The death rate in women with stroke is however higher as compared to men.
● A stroke is difficult to recognize
Strokes can occur suddenly and might not give you enough time to identify that you are suffering from a stroke or seek medical treatment. However, it is a myth that a stroke is difficult to recognize.
A simple test called BE FAST (Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, Time) can be used, even by non-medical professionals) to identify post injury due to strokes. You can spot problems with balance, blurred vision, slurred speech, a facial droop, weakness in an arm or leg suddenly are all indicators that you or your loved one are experiencing a stroke.
Prompt medical attention at this point is the best way to increase the chances of better prognosis.
● Pain is the most common sign of a stroke.
Many people confuse a stroke with a heart attack and presume you will experience some pain while having a stroke. However, pain is experienced only in 30% of cases, and hence, it is not a very reliable symptom to diagnose stroke.
● COVID-19 cannot cause stroke
With the COVID -19 pandemic, people are fearing to seek medical consultation for their regular health maintenance evaluation and treatment for routine problems. However, you must know that COVID-19 can increase your chances of suffering from a stroke due to its effects on blood clotting and inflammation.
● If the symptoms of stroke pass, you don’t require treatment
If you think you are safe after your stroke symptoms have passed, think again! When you suffer from stroke-like symptoms, what you are actually suffering from is Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA).
This condition is also a medical emergency and tremendously increases your chances of developing a stroke in the next few days. The difference between TIA and a stroke is that in the case of a TIA, the blood vessel blockage resolves immediately before leading to permanent nerve damage in the brain, a characteristic of strokes.
● Smoking has nothing to do with stroke.
It is a common myth that only lifestyle factors like high blood pressure, blood glucose level, cholesterol levels, and abdominal diameter increase your chances of a stroke. However, smoking is known to be a major risk factor for strokes.
● Strokes do not run in families.
Have a family member who has suffered from a stroke? Contrary to popular belief, this puts you at an increased risk of developing a stroke. This is attributed to the fact that most risk factors for stroke also run in families and are hereditary. Hence, family history is one of the important causative factors of developing a stroke.
The only way to reduce your chances of developing a stroke is to live a healthy lifestyle and keep all your blood parameters within normal limits. Seeking prompt medical treatment if you or your loved one are showing stroke symptoms is important to reduce damage and improve prognosis. Whether you are old or young, COVID-19 infection does increase your chances of developing a stroke.
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