Strokes in Women: Risks, Symptoms and Prevention
Strokes can occur to anyone, regardless of their age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are at a higher risk of stroke, but women are more likely to die from one. In fact, based on statistics provided by CDC, 1 in 5 American women will suffer a stroke, and around 60 percent will die from it.
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Although the mortality rate due to strokes is higher than that of breast cancer, women are less knowledgeable about the risk factors, symptoms and prevention measures. To protect yourself or your loved ones from such a devastating and even deadly attack, it’s important to know as much as possible about it. After all, prompt diagnosis and treatment can make the difference between life and death.
Main types of stroke
Ischemic stroke. It occurs because of clogging, narrowing or obstruction of a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.
Hemorrhagic stroke. It occurs when brain vessels rupture or leak blood, causing pressure and swelling.
Transient ischemic attack. This so-called mini-stroke is caused by a temporary clogging of a blood vessel.
While some things like age and gender cannot be changed, there are certain lifestyle factors or medical factors that we can change. On that note, here are the most common risk factors for a stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart diseases
- Being overweight
- Lack of cardiovascular exercise
Among the risk factors specific to women, is using birth control pills, hormone therapy during menopause or to treat other hormonal problems and even pregnancy. See also 5 Menopause Symptoms Few Women Know About.
Symptoms of stroke in women
One of the most common symptoms of stroke in women is facial nerve palsy, namely drooping of the skin around the brow, eye, cheek, and mouth. This might also be accompanied by nerve damage in the arm and led. According to the American Stroke Association, around 80 percent of women experienced these symptoms when they had a stroke.
Other stroke symptoms include:
- Acute headache. A sudden headache sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
- Acute pain on one side of the face. Sharp and strong pain on one side of the face, the body, or in one of the limbs.
- Sudden and acute pain in the chest. This can also be a sign of a heart attack. But if a person also has the hiccups, it’s more likely to be a stroke.
- Impaired coordination. A sudden loss of coordination and disorientation can indicate damage to the part of the brain responsible for movement.
- Sudden fatigue. Drowsiness, and sudden behavioral changes, such as depression.
- Visual impairment. A sudden loss or blurring of vision in one or both eyes.
- Loss of consciousness. Sudden dizziness, shortness of breath and palpitations.
If you experience any such symptoms or see them in someone else, do the following things to test yourself or another person.
- Your smile will be asymmetrical in the case of a stroke, you won’t be able to move one side of your mouth.
- Lift both hands and hold them for 5 seconds. If you’re having a stroke, you won’t be able to lift both of them.
- Blurred or slow speech, inability to answer are signs of a stroke.
When it comes to strokes, time is of the essence. The longer you wait to call the ambulance, the higher the risk of brain damage or disability. There’s a 4.5-hour window during which doctors can save someone without them being affected for the rest of their lives.
How to prevent strokes
Surprisingly, compared to breast cancer, twice as many women die of strokes. In addition, women who survive strokes need more time to recover, compared to men. To prevent a future stroke, you can start with the following lifestyle improvements:
- eat a balanced diet
- get regular exercise
- maintain a healthy body weight
- give up smoking
- focus on a hobby to reduce stress levels
Due to specific risk factors, women should also pay more attention to:
- monitoring blood pressure during and after pregnancy
- screening for atrial fibrillation (AFib) after age 75
- screening for high blood pressure