Women and Strokes
Despite the frequency and severity of strokes among women, many women have not been provided the information they need to recognize risk factors and symptoms. Approximately 20 percent of women will suffer a stroke in their lifetime, and roughly 55,000 more women than men have strokes each year. That’s largely because older women outnumber older men. However, women ages 45 to 54 are twice as likely to have a stroke than men in that age bracket. Twice as many women die from strokes than from breast cancer.
The statistics are staggering, but the majority of strokes are preventable. Controlling risk factors, such as hypertension or high blood pressure, can significantly reduce the risk. Women should also be aware that other factors, such as use of birth control and higher rates of depression, put them at a greater risk of strokes. High blood pressure during pregnancy, called preeclampsia, can also trigger a stroke.
African American women suffer strokes at a higher rate than their non-African American counterparts. Experts point to higher rates of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, smoking, and sickle cell disease among African American women. Women with atrial fibrillation are at five times greater risk for a stroke.
Your doctor might recommend certain lifestyle changes and medications to prevent a stroke. Aspirin, blood pressure medication, and cholesterol medications might be options to lower the risk of a stroke. Quitting smoking, losing weight, or exercising more might also reduce a woman’s chances of having a stroke. Women are encouraged to check their blood pressure at home, to get routine wellness checks from a doctor, and to practice relaxation techniques.
All older women are considered at high risk of stroke, largely because age increases the risk for vascular disease and other health complications. It is vital to be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke immediately, as every moment counts in treatment. The faster proper medical care begins, the better the chance of a full recovery. Try to take note of the time of the first symptoms, as the medical provider will want to know.
Stroke symptoms come on suddenly and can include numbness of the face, arm, or leg on one side of the body. A stroke victim could also experience confusion, dizziness, vision problems, or a severe headache. Medical experts offer the F.A.S.T. acronym to help people remember what to check for: FACE, ARMS, SPEECH, and TIME.
- Check whether the person’s FACE can smile. Is the face drooping?
- Check whether the person can raise both ARMS out. Does one drift downward because of weakness?
- Check the person’s SPEECH by asking them to repeat a simple phrase.
- Act in a short TIME by calling 911 fast. Some stroke treatments only work in the first three hours.
Some stroke symptoms seem to be more specific to women. For example, females are more likely to faint, lose consciousness, or report difficulty breathing, pain, or seizures during a stroke. They are also more likely to report being nauseous, vomiting, or even having the hiccups. If you notice the symptoms of a stroke, call 911 right away. Do not drive to the hospital, as emergency responders can begin life-saving treatments en route.
Currently, female stroke victims are 33% less likely to report stroke symptoms than men even in the emergency room, meaning they are less likely to get quick treatment. Some women cite not wanting family to worry or to stop everyday life to deal with their symptoms. But strokes demand immediate attention, and being informed and reacting quickly will help save lives.
At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8000, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.