Stroke is the third leading cause of death for women in America. Nearly 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year. However, the percent of women who know the risk factors and early warning signs of a stroke is unfortunately low. Knowing your stroke risk factors and the early warning signs may save a life.
Warning Signs of a Stroke in Women
Symptoms of a stroke appear suddenly. Take immediate action if you experience a rapid onset of any of these symptoms.
* Numbness, pain or weakness in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body
* Confusion, slurred speech or difficulty understanding speech
* Vision problems in one or both eyes, especially dimming vision
* Dizziness, loss of balance, or poor coordination
* Severe headache
In addition to these common symptoms, women also report unique indicators of stroke, including:
* Overwhelming weakness
* Chest pain and shortness of breath
Call 911 immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
Stroke Prevention Guidelines: Act FAST
When someone is having a stroke, every minute counts. If you can recognize the warning signs and get the patient to treatment quickly, it is sometimes possible to reverse the effects of a stroke. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, think F.A.S.T.:
F — Face drooping: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A — Arm weakness: Ask the person to raise their arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S — Speech difficulties: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred?
T —Time: If you see any of these signs, call 911 immediately. Timely treatment is crucial.
Stroke Risk Factors
There are two main types of risk factors for stroke – controllable and uncontrollable. Obviously, there’s little one can do to reduce the risks caused by uncontrollable factors. These factors include age, race, gender, genetic inheritance, and certain pre-existing conditions. Controllable risk factors, on the other hand, can be changed to greatly reduce your risk of stroke.
Smoking is a major risk factor for everyone, but it is an especially high risk factor for women who also experience migraines. Quitting smoking greatly reduces your chances of having a stroke. For women, the risk for stroke is higher if they use hormonal birth control pills. Women over age 35 are strongly encouraged to use an alternate form of birth control. High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, obesity and diabetes are all linked to an increased risk of stroke. Managing these conditions through a combination of medication and lifestyle changes can help to reduce your risk of stroke. The best way to prevent stroke is to get plenty of exercise, eat a healthy diet and to know the warning signs. To evaluate your personal risk for stroke, talk to your healthcare provider.