Learn about the signs of stroke in women
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Signs of Stroke in Women

The third leading cause of death in women in the United States is stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, 55,000 more women than men experience a stroke every year.

A stroke occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain becomes weak and bursts, causing blood to leak into the brain. A stroke can cause many complications, including paralysis, seizures, and death. It is important to know the risk factors and warning signs of a stroke to prevent the associated complications.

To learn more about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, visit the UPMC Stroke Institute website.

General risk factors for stroke include family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity.

According to the National Stroke Association, women are more likely to have a stroke because of other risk factors such as:

  • Oral contraceptives: Taking birth control pills can be a risk factor for stroke when combined with other factors like age, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Pregnancy: When a woman is pregnant, natural changes in the body — such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart — can increase the risk of stroke.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: This common menopausal relief therapy combines progestin and estrogen, which can increase the risk of clots.
  • Migraine headaches: Of the more than 38 million Americans suffering from migraines, 28 million are women. Migraine sufferers are 2.5 times more likely to suffer a stroke.

Signs of Stroke: Know the Symptoms

For any stroke patient, it’s important to get help right away. The most effective treatments must be administered within hours of the first signs of stroke. Call 911 if someone near you is experiencing what appears to be a stroke, and stay with them until help comes. Medical professionals use the acronym FAST to identify stroke symptoms:

  • Face: Is their face drooping on one side?
  • Arms: Do they have difficulty raising both arms?
  • Speech: Is their speech slurred? Are they unable to repeat simple phrases?
  • Time: If any of the above answers are yes, call 911 immediately.

Signs of Stroke in Women

Many signs of stroke are the same for women and men. But indicators specific to women include headaches, hiccups, agitation, or hallucinations. Some women report experiencing loss of consciousness or fainting, general weakness, nausea, pain, or seizures.

While not all stroke risk factors are controllable, managing the risk factors that are within your control is the best defense. For example, it’s recommended that women who experience migraines should stop smoking immediately. Pregnant women should monitor their blood pressure during and after pregnancy, and all women should be screened for high blood pressure before starting birth control or hormone replacement therapy. In general, women who are at risk for stroke should consult a doctor about lifestyle changes, especially changes in diet and exercise.

To learn more about stroke prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, visit the UPMC Stroke Institute website.