Facts You Need to Know about Strokes and Women

Each May, the National Stroke Association observes National Stroke Month to raise awareness of the condition. Stroke is the third leading cause of death among women (more than breast cancer) although it is largely preventable and treatable.   Stroke is a devastating affliction for men and women, but there are some different risk factors that lead to stroke in women, different ways of preventing stroke, and even different symptoms women may experience.   Strokes are a serious medical emergency that require attention.   Think FAST to assess whether a person’s symptoms might be a stroke.

Face—does one side of the person’s face droop when she smiles?

Arms—does one arm drift downward when both are raised?

Speech—is the person’s speech slurred?

Time—if you observe any of these, call 9-1-1 immediately

While common symptoms for men and women include sudden numbness or weakness in limbs, confusion, trouble speaking or seeing, dizziness, severe headache without cause, there are also some specific symptoms that women have reported experiencing. These are not always recognized as stroke symptoms, which can lead to late diagnosis and complications later.   These symptoms include:
  • Fainting
  • General weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Hiccups
Risk factors for having a stroke include lifestyle and medical factors like being overweight, smoking, having high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Adults over age 55 are also higher at risk. Although men are more at risk of having stroke, women are more likely to be older when they have strokes, and they are also more likely to die from strokes than men are.   Several hormone-related factors can lead to a predisposition to having stroke, including taking birth control pills, being pregnant, or using hormone replacement therapy, such as during menopause.   So what can women do to prevent stroke from happening? The National Stroke Association recommends:
  • Women who experience migraines with aura and smoke are advised to stop smoking immediately.
  • Women who are pregnant should monitor their blood pressure during and after pregnancy to lower the risk of stroke.
  • Women over 75 should be screened for Atrial Fibrillation
  • Women should be screened for high blood pressure prior to starting a birth control regimen.
  • Women with concerns about high blood pressure or stroke should consult a doctor.
Since the most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within the first three hours of the first symptoms, older women who live alone may want the security provided by medical alert monitoring systems like the ones we offer. If you recognize a symptom of stroke, simply press the button and help is alerted. If you cannot coherently communicate, the operator will ensure medical professionals are on their way.   Sources: Mayo ClinicNational Stroke Association