For a long time strokes were considered “a man’s disease” because they weren’t commonly recognized in women. While we now know this to be untrue, many women don’t recognize the symptoms. CBS News quotes research out of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, which shows only 11% of women could identify the symptoms of a stroke. When you consider that stroke is the third highest cause of death in women, this is a life threatening-statistic. The faster a stroke is identified, the greater the chances for survival. That is why I want to make sure my female patients–and their loved ones–can recognize all of the symptoms of a stroke.
Gender Specific Factors
One thing that many people don’t realize is that women have certain biological factors that put them at a higher risk for a stroke.
Both men and women have estrogen in their blood. However higher levels of this hormone is more commonly found in women. The body predominantly uses estrogen to regulate the female reproductive system. However, this hormone is also a coagulant. That’s why higher levels of estrogen can increase stroke risk.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills are not always used to prevent pregnancy. They can also be used to help with acne, heavy menstrual cycles, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and endometriosis. Birth control raises the level of estrogen to varying degrees.
While autoimmune diseases occur in both men and women, 78% of those affected are women, according to research published in The American Journal of Pathology. Autoimmune diseases can cause the blood to clot, which increases risk of stroke, heart attack, blood clots, and more.
Symptoms More Common in Women
One of the biggest reasons some strokes go untreated is because they aren’t recognized. Not everyone experiences numbness in their arms, and not everyone’s face droops. If you are at risk because of high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol make sure that you can recognize all the possible symptoms.
Heat stroke, low blood pressure, and hunger are just some reasons why someone may faint. Fainting happens when there is a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain. During a stroke, blood and oxygen cannot get to that vital organ. No matter what the reason for your fainting, seek medical care right away. A doctor will be able to determine whether the cause is a stroke.
Strokes often cause permanent brain damage, which in turn can cause seizures. If seizures are uncommon for you, seek medical treatment right away.
Chest Pain and Shortness of Breath
Many people associate chest pain and shortness of breath with a heart attack or a panic attack. Stroke victims sometimes experience the same symptoms. Heart attacks and strokes share many commonalities. One is a lack of blood flow. If blood is unable to get to the bottom of your brain stem, it cannot reach your heart or lungs, either.
It doesn’t take long for hiccups to get annoying. Everyone has their trick to get rid of them. The problem lies when the hiccups just won’t go away. This could also be a sign of a stroke that many people don’t even know about. If you experience persistent hiccups alongside unusual chest pain seek immediate medical care.
Sudden Behavioral Changes or Agitation
The frontal lobe affects personality and behavior. If you or a loved one have noticed sudden changes or extreme agitation this may be a sign of a stroke. This is a more uncommon symptom but just as important.
Nausea or Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are often symptoms found in posterior circulation brain structure strokes. These strokes affect your brain stem, cerebellum, midbrain, and thalamus. This area also includes parts of the temporal and occipital cortex.
Another part of your body that can be affected by a posterior circulation stroke is your eyes. When the optical lobes have been damaged by a stroke you may begin to hallucinate.
Other Stroke Symptoms
The following list is a more widely known list of signs of a stroke. Unfortunately, many men and women don’t always know what to look for. If you are at risk be sure that you are aware of all symptoms.
As with hallucinations, damaged optical lobes affect vision. If you have blurred vision or sensitivity to light you may have a serious problem.
Women are more susceptible to migraines than men but if you are having a stroke the pain you experience could be even worse than your worst migraine. Blindingly painful headaches could also be a sign of hemorrhaging in the brain.
Sudden numbness in your left arm is commonly a sign of heart attack. However, that numbness could also be due to a stroke. If you find that one side of your body is numb or extremely weak, regardless of which side, call 911.
Loss of Balance
Vertigo has multiple causes. However, if you find yourself dizzy and unable to keep your balance this may be a sign that you having a stroke.
Along with a drooping face, this is probably one of the most common symptoms people know to look out for. If you find yourself mid-sentence and unable to remember what you were talking about, if your speech slurs, or you can’t speak at all, waste no time getting treatment.
This isn’t like forgetting where your glasses are and they’re on top of your head the whole time. Forgetfulness as a symptom of a stroke is like forgetting where you are, who you’re with, or what you’re doing there. This forgetfulness can come on suddenly and be very scary.
Whether you’re a man or a woman be sure that you are able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. An easy way to do this is by remembering F.A.S.T. – Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.
Browse my blog for a wealth of information on keeping your heart and circulatory system healthy. And, Diamond Nutritionals offers a full range of products created with cardiovascular health in mind.