When researchers conducting a 2003 study asked participants to identify the common signs of a stroke, they found that women did a better job at providing this important information – and it is undoubtedly important. After all, every minute matters when someone is having a stroke. With the treatments available today, recognizing that someone is having a stroke and getting them help quickly improves the odds of saving their life and preventing disability. Do you know the symptoms of stroke in women?
The Symptoms of Stroke in Women
The primary symptoms of stroke in women are the same symptoms that men experience. However, women also report some symptoms that are not shared by men. Being aware of both the similarities and the differences can help you get someone you love the care that they need. With something as serious as a stroke, it’s far better for all involved for you to seek help and discover that it’s a false alarm. No one wants to wonder if getting treatment might have prevented a tragedy.
A Fast Response
The American Heart Association encourages people to think F.A.S.T. when they need to remember the warning signs of a stroke. The word serves as a useful mnemonic device:
- Face drooping.
- Arm weakness.
- Speech difficulties.
- Time to call 911 immediately.
Stroke in Women
When a woman has a stroke, what does the event really look or feel like? According to the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a stroke can come on fast. A stroke in a woman could reveal itself in one or more of the following ways:
- She could have a severe headache that strikes for no clear reason.
- She might suddenly have trouble seeing out of one or both of her eyes.
- She may experience confusion, agitation, drowsiness, or seem disoriented.
- She may have difficulty speaking, mumble, or make odd word choices.
- She may struggle with dizziness, poor coordination, and balance issues, which could cause trouble with walking.
- She may experience weakness or numbness of the face, arm, or leg, especially along one side of the body.
Any Sudden, Unexplained Change Is Cause for Concern
Dr. Pooja Khatri, a neurology professor at the University of Cincinnati, tells the American Heart Association that women need to pay attention to their bodies. She suggests that they should be wary of any sudden, unexplained change. “Women more frequently have atypical, vague symptoms. They might start with fatigue, confusion or maybe general weakness, as opposed to weakness on one side of the body.” Other types of vague stroke symptoms reported by women include pain, nausea or vomiting, hiccups, seizures, or fainting.
Dr. Amytis Towfighi, the director of neurological services for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, tells the AHA that women must be careful not to downplay their symptoms. If they suspect a stroke, they need to speak up and seek emergency assistance quickly and clearly. “The key to getting the treatments we have available is having the ambulances alert the hospitals that they’re coming with a stroke patient so that the whole team is activated and ready to give the medication.” However, many women choose to drive to the emergency room. As Towfighi explains, that inevitably means going through the triage process and waiting to be seen. “And since women in particular may have nontraditional symptoms, the staff may not figure out right away that they’re having a stroke, and there could be delays in getting seen and getting treatment.”
What if stroke symptoms appear briefly before fading away? You should still seek help immediately. You may be experiencing a transient ischemic attack. A TIA can still require treatment. It can also be a warning sign that an actual stroke is imminent. That means heading to the doctor without delay is vital. The doctor can conduct tests to determine what happened, evaluate your risks, and advise you about what steps you need to take.
Learning the symptoms of stroke in women is empowering. While no one wants to think about someone they care about having a stroke, being able to recognize the signs and take effective action just might save a life.
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