To get a better idea of stroke symptoms and risks, we spoke to Robert O. Bonow, MD, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. He clears up some commonly held myths about strokes.
You know you're having a stroke because it hurts.
Myth: Pain is not a sign of stroke. Rather than the telltale crushing pain associated with a heart attack, a stroke often causes subtler neurological sensations. They can include recurring numbness or weakness on one side of the body, confusion and difficulty speaking, visual problems (such as partial vision loss in one eye), and trouble with balance.
Certain ethnic groups have a greater risk of stroke.
Fact: Some ethnic groups, including South Asians, Hispanics, and African Americans, are more prone to stroke than Caucasians. These populations are best advised to keep an eye on risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a family history of stroke. But that doesn't mean others are not at risk. Smoking, drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy foods could put anyone on a one-way path to a stroke.
A stroke is instantly paralyzing.
Myth: A stroke can cause one side of your body to stop working. But it might also cause less noticeable symptoms, like numbness and tingling in your fingers. Some strokes (called silent strokes) cause no symptoms. A stroke also can evolve slowly or rapidly. Although healthy people occasionally experience numbness and tingling in fingers and other extremities, if these recur or last longer than one minute, call your doctor. They could signal the onset of a stroke or other neurological problems.