Someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds, and dies from stroke every four minutes. You can help combat this killer by arming yourself with the facts. Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Associates, and UTHealth Neurosciences physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann Mischer Neurosciences–are setting the record straight on common stroke myths.

MYTH #1: A stroke is like a heart attack.

While they share many of the same risk factors, a heart attack affects the heart, while a stroke affects the brain. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen.

MYTH #2: A stroke is a “brain bleed.”

There are two major types of stroke; Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, resulting in bleeding in the surrounding tissue. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel carrying blood to the brain, cutting off blood supply to the brain.

MYTH #3: Strokes randomly occur and can’t be prevented.

While genetic factors can contribute to stroke risk, up to 80% of strokes are preventable by managing risk factors. To prevent stroke, maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Maintain a healthy body weight. Get regular exercise. And also, please don’t smoke.

MYTH #4: There is no treatment for stroke.

Ischemic stroke can be treated with a clot-busting drug known as a tissue-type plasminogen activator (thrombolytic therapy), which must be administered within 3 to 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke. Certain types of ischemic stroke can be treated by prescribing medication, surgically removing the blood clot or repairing the ruptured blood vessel.

MYTH #5: TIAs (also commonly referred to as “mini-strokes”) are not cause for concern.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), is a medical emergency that occurs when stroke symptoms last less than 24 hours without treatment. A TIA is a very strong predictor of a stroke; a person who has suffered one or more TIAs is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke.

MYTH #6: Strokes only happen to elderly people.

Your risk for stroke increase with age, but a stroke can occur at any age. In fact, the rate of stroke among people between the ages of 18 and 65 is on the rise, given increases in obesity, elevated cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure among this population.

MYTH #7: Strokes aren't hereditary.

Strokes run in families, as many of the chronic diseases that put a person at a higher risk for stroke—including hypertension, diabetes and obesity—run in families. In addition, certain genetic conditions can run in families, which increase the risk of forming blood clots that can lead to stroke.

MYTH #8: Stroke recovery only happens right after a stroke.

While most of the healing takes place in the first few months after a stroke, recovery—through physical therapy and other treatments—can continue for years.

MYTH #9: You can treat stroke symptoms by taking aspirin.

Aspirin is used to prevent ischemic strokes in people who have either already had a stroke, or who have risk factors for stroke. Aspirin can actually worsen a hemorrhagic stroke. If you experience stroke symptoms, avoid taking aspirin and call 911 immediately.

MYTH #10: All hospitals are equally equipped to handle strokes.

Both the Joint Commission and Det Norske Veritas (DNV) certify hospitals that meet certain standards for care of acute stroke, designating them as Comprehensive Stroke Centers (CSCs) and Primary Stroke Centers (PSCs). While both are advanced designations, CSCs are the most advanced.

Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center is a CSC, and is the first stroke program in the state to meet such standards. Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital also have CSC certification. In addition, 7 Memorial Hermann hospitals are PSCs.

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