Signs of a stroke can be different among women and men, due to several risk factors you may not know of which make stroke a leading killer of women. Here are 15 symptoms all women should keep an eye on.
If you believe you are at risk for a stroke, there is a helpful acronym to raise awareness of a stroke and save your life: FAST. Developed by the American Stroke Association (ASA), the acronym stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911. Unfortunately, these aren’t the only, or even the most evident, stroke symptoms in women, according to Cheryl Bushnell, MD, professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We have no idea why the stroke symptoms might be different for women. We need research on this topic,” says Bushnell. Women also have distinctive risk factors that make stroke the third leading cause of death for women.
15. Fainting or Seizures
You may want to think twice about a fainting spell and look deeper into the underlying issues, as it may be a stroke. Women are more likely to suffer from strokes in the back of the brain than men, says Diana Greene-Chandos MD, FNCS, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Known as posterior circulation strokes, they cut off “blood flow to the occipital lobes, brain stem, cerebellum, and part of the temporal lobe. The top of the brain stem is where the consciousness center lies,” says Dr. Greene-Chandos, which can lead to fainting if blood flow to the brain is cut off. Dr. Greene-Chandos also states that fainting “could also be related to a hyperventilation response to any type of stroke, as a fear response” and seizures, a different type of stroke symptom in women, can also be confused with a loss of consciousness.
14. Difficulty Breathing
Women often confuse chest pains and shortness of breath with signs of a heart attack, but instead, they may be signs of a stroke. “This is consistent again with posterior circulation problems from the bottom of the brain stem where the respiratory drive centers lie,” says Dr. Greene-Chandos. Recognizing the early signs of stroke is crucial, says Kathryn Rexrode, MD chief of the Division of Women’s Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “It is important to get prompt emergency care if you are experiencing stroke symptoms since some strokes can be stopped by use of thrombolytic, or clot-busting, drugs,” Rexrode added.