Cerebrovascular accident (CVA), cerebral infarction, ictus or stroke, are different names used to refer to a condition that occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain is stopped.
If blood flow stops for more than a few seconds, the brain doesn’t get the nutrients and oxygen it needs, so brain cells can die, causing permanent damage. Here we review the most common myths about this problem that represents the second cause of death in the world and each year more than 15 million people suffer.
Myth 1: Stroke is a heart condition
TRUE: This is a very common doubt because stroke is related to cardiovascular risk factors, however, it takes place in the brain, not in the heart.
It is even common to be mistaken for a heart attack, but this is incorrect, as in a stroke blood flow to part of the brain is blocked, while in a heart attack blood flow to the brain is blocked. heart muscle.
Myth 2: Stroke only affects older adults
TRUE: It is true, age is a very important risk factor for stroke, it is estimated that the risk doubles every decade after 55 years. However, as with other problems associated with older adults, a stroke can occur at any age.
The researchers warn that many risk factors for stroke, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, lipid disorders or obesity, are highly present in young populations.
Myth 3: Stroke does not cause symptoms
TRUE: Recent research has found that asymptomatic strokes are more common than believed, however, this is a condition that is characterized by causing symptoms.
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These signals will depend on the part of the brain that is damaged. They generally appear suddenly and without warning, although they can also occur intermittently. These include:
- Confusion and difficulty speaking or understanding speech
- Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes.
- Difficulty walking, including dizziness, loss of balance, and lack of coordination.
- Severe headaches.
- Numbness or weakness in the face, arm, leg, or on one side of the body.
- Alterations in touch, taste, smell and hearing.
- Emotional changes.
There is an acronym in English (FAST) that makes it easier to remember the signs of a stroke and what to do if you think it has happened. FAST are the English acronyms for:
- FACE (Face): Ask the person to smile. Check if one side of the face hangs down.
- ARMS (Arms): Ask the person to raise both arms. Check if an arm moves down.
- SPEECH (Speech): Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Check if the words are slurred and if the phrase is repeated correctly.
- TIME: If the person exhibits any of these symptoms, time is of the essence. Call your local emergency number as soon as possible for urgent assistance.
With regard to asymptomatic strokes, they can be identified when patients receive magnetic resonance imaging. Although they do not cause symptoms, these strokes should be treated in the same way as those that do cause them, by going to a hospital or health care center as soon as possible.
Myth 4: A stroke is caused by high blood pressure
TRUE: Indeed, high blood pressure or hypertension is the main risk factor for stroke. However, there are other factors that are very important and must be controlled:
- Family history of stroke.
- Irregular heart rate, called atrial fibrillation.
- Being a man.
- Be of legal age (from 55 years).
- Having a history of previous strokes or transient ischemic attacks (which occur when blood flow to a part of the brain stops for a short time).
- Being overweight or obese.
Myth 5: You can’t treat a stroke
TRUE: A widespread belief, but not necessarily true, is that strokes are untreatable conditions. Successful treatment requires that the person experiencing stroke symptoms get to the hospital as quickly as possible. There, health professionals can resort to different options depending on the cause of the stroke:
- Use blood thinners: Such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), aspirin, or clopidogrel (Plavix).
- Using medications to control risk factors: such as high blood pressure, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels), among others.
- Resorting to special procedures or surgery: such as mechanical thrombectomy, to relieve symptoms or prevent further strokes.
- Administer nutrients and fluids.
Myth 6: There is nothing you can do to prevent a stroke
TRUE: This is another myth that health professionals hold responsible for the high incidence of strokes in the population. To dismiss this idea, experts explain that hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, smoking, obesity, diabetes, head or neck trauma, and cardiac arrhythmias are the most common risk factors for stroke.
With this, they seek to show that the vast majority can be modified by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes a healthy and balanced diet, frequent exercise, regular sleep patterns and visits to the doctor annually (minimally). In this way, the probability of suffering a stroke is minimized.
Myth 7: The stroke does not leave sequels
TRUE: Stroke represents the leading cause of disability in adults worldwide. Although not all stroke sufferers are debilitated or paralyzed, it is estimated that more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and older have reduced mobility.
The long-term impact of a stroke also depends on other factors, such as the area of the brain that is damaged. If it affects the left side of the brain the effects can include:
- Slow behavior.
- Paralysis on the right side of the body.
- Memory loss.
- Speech and language problems.
- Accelerated behavior.
- Paralysis on the left side of the body.
- Memory loss.
- Eye sight problems.
- 10% of survivors recover almost completely.
- 10% of survivors require care in a nursing home or care facility.
- 25% of survivors recover with minor injuries.
- 40% of survivors experience moderate to severe impairments.
If it affects the right side of the brain the effects can include:
Myth 8: It is not possible to recover from a stroke
TRUE: Many times it is claimed that there is no possible recovery after a stroke, but the truth is that, although it may take months and even years, many patients achieve significant improvements in many or all of their symptoms. According to the American Stroke Association:
Until there is meaningful scientific evidence from human trials, people interested in using herbal therapies and supplements should be very careful.
Do not abandon or modify your medications or treatments, but first talk to your doctor about the potential effects of alternative or complementary therapies.
Remember, the medicinal properties of herbs and supplements can also interact with prescription drugs, other herbs and supplements, and even alter your diet.
Sources consulted: American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, US National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.