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Reviewed 3/5/2023

Stroke: Myth or fact?

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. In fact, every 3 minutes, 17 seconds, an American dies from stroke, accounting for 1 out of every 21 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 it 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

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