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Reviewed 5/3/2021

Stroke: Myth or fact?

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, every four minutes an American dies from stroke, accounting for 1 out of every 20 deaths in the country. In addition, about 610,000 people have a stroke for the first time each year. Test yourself to see if you know the facts about this condition—and how to respond to it.

Myth or fact: A stroke is a type of heart attack.

Myth. A stroke is an attack on the brain, not the heart. Most strokes occur because a clot is blocking a blood vessel to the brain. Less frequently, strokes occur because a blood vessel in the brain has ruptured.

Myth or fact: It's hard to tell if someone is having a stroke.

Myth. FAST is an acronym that can help people identify when a stroke is occurring and respond quickly. It stands for:

Facial droop.

Arm or leg weakness.

Speech difficulty.

Time to call 911 to get that person to the hospital as fast as possible.

Myth or fact: After calling 911 for help, you should give an aspirin to the person having a stroke.

Myth. That instruction might be OK for a heart attack if the operator says to, but if doesn't work for a stroke. In fact, aspirin could worsen the situation if the person is having a bleeding stroke.

Myth or fact: A stroke can occur gradually, even over several days.

Myth. Strokes occur suddenly, usually without warning. If there is a warning, it comes in the form of a temporary stroke—called a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or warning stroke. Although symptoms of a TIA are temporary, you should take them seriously and see a doctor.

Myth or fact: You can recover from a stroke.

Fact. Most strokes are caused by blood clots. These clots can be broken up and blood flow to the brain restored if you get to the hospital quickly. After that, a stroke rehabilitation program can help you recover some or possibly all of the abilities affected by the stroke.

While it's possible to recover from a stroke, it's also possible to help prevent one from occurring. The first step is to find out your risk for stroke and talk with a doctor about ways to reduce it.

Learn your stroke risk

Sources: American Heart Association; American Stroke Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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The information found in the Health Library is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice nor does it represent the views or position of WHMC. Readers should always consult with their healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including for specific medical needs.