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Strokes: Fact or Fiction?

Strokes: Fact or Fiction?

Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S—someone dies from a stroke every 40 seconds. In recognition of World Stroke Day on Oct. 29, we are sharing some of the myths about strokes and shining a light on the facts to help improve these statistics. As many as 80 percent of all strokes are preventable! And strokes are the second-leading cause of death worldwide.

Fiction: Strokes affect the heart.

Fact: A stroke can actually be called a “brain attack.” It happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked, or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. In both cases, parts of the brain are damaged, causing brain damage, long-term disability, or even death. When brain cells are deprived of oxygen, it causes memory loss and muscle control. For example, some patients become paralyzed on one side of their body, or they may lose the ability to speak. Your brain uses about 20 percent of the oxygen you breathe for its normal functions, even though it only accounts for about 2 percent of your body weight.

Fiction: Strokes affect older people, especially men.

Fact: Strokes don’t discriminate. In fact, more women than men suffer from strokes. While it’s true that the likelihood of stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55, everyone is at risk, including people of all ages. Some risk factors are out of our control. These include age, race, gender, and family history.

  • 1 in 5 people who have a stroke are under age 55. Your risk increases as you age.
  • African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are at a greater risk of stroke.
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women, affecting 55,000 more women than men every year. Several factors put women at a greater risk of stroke, including high rates of high blood pressure, the use of several types of birth control, and higher rates of depression and anxiety. African-American women have the highest risk of strokes of any female group.
  • If a family member has had a stroke, you are at a greater risk for a stroke yourself.

Fiction: There’s nothing I can do about preventing stroke.

Fact: As many as 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. There are many risk factors that you can manage to decrease your risk of stroke. These include:

Fiction: It’s hard to recognize the symptoms of a stroke.

Fact: There’s an easy acronym to help you remember the warning signs of a potential stroke: FAST stands for Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. That’s because it’s important to act quickly to help a stroke victim. Here’s what to look for:

  • Face: Does one side of the person’s face droop when you ask them to smile?
  • Arms: After raising both of their arms, does one drift downward?
  • Speech: Is the person’s speech slurred, or are they struggling to repeat even simple phrases?
  • Time: If you notice any of these warning signs, call 911 immediately.

Fiction: If I don’t have the FAST warning signs, then it can’t be a stroke.

Fact: Although the FAST acronym is a helpful way to remember the most common warning signs, there are additional stroke symptoms, including:

  • Sudden numbness, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, including difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden vision issues
  • Sudden issues with walking including dizziness
  • Sudden severe headache

In Maryland, Frederick County’s stroke rates are among the lowest in the state. Frederick County ranks the 8th lowest of 24 counties (Click here for the data). Frederick Health is dedicated to diagnosing and treating stroke patients quickly! We’re designated by the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Service Systems (MIEMSS) as a Primary Stroke Center.

The acute stroke team at Frederick Health includes emergency department physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, radiologists, nurses, and pharmacists. This specially trained team is ready 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to quickly diagnose and treat acute stroke.

Frederick Health has been awarded the 2019 Target Stroke Elite Honor Roll for timely stroke treatment and the 2019 Get With The Guidelines (GWTG) Silver Plus Achievement Award for continued success in stroke patient care by the American Heart Association.

Additionally, Frederick Health offers an ongoing support group for stroke survivors and caregivers, which meets the second Tuesday of each month at Frederick Health Crestwood (2nd Floor). For more information, call 240-566-4884.