Stroke and Women: Do You Know the Facts?

Stephanie Specht's picture
By Stephanie Specht on May 7, 2018

How much do you really know about stroke, especially when it comes to stroke and women? Let’s start off with a quick quiz.
Stroke strikes women more often than men. True or false?
If you said true, you are correct, but chances are you said false. Stroke is not something most people often associate with women, but according to the National Stroke Association, each year stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer.
“Men actually have more strokes at a younger age, but your risk of stroke goes up as you age and since women tend to live longer than men, they are more affected by stroke as they get older,” explained Kathy Robertson, M.S.N., R.N., stroke coordinator at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
However, Robertson noted that there are also several unique stroke risk factors that only women face.
Stroke Risk Factors for Women
Both men and women share general stroke risk factors such as being overweight, lack of exercise, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance of stroke include: 

  • Birth control pills
  • Pregnancy
  • Preeclampsia/eclampsia
  • Hormone replacement therapy

According to the American Stroke Association, 1 in 5 women will have a stroke at some point in their life, but approximately 80 percent of strokes are preventable.

“Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and how you can work to get them under control,” said Robertson. “Controlling your risk factors now is the key to decreasing your risk when you are older and more vulnerable to stroke.”

Stroke Symptoms in Women
Aside from additional risk factors, women can also experience other signs of stroke that are not often recognized, delaying much-needed treatment.

Typical signs of a stroke include loss of balance; slurred speech or a droopy face; numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; impaired vision or difficulty seeing in one or both eyes; and severe headache with no known cause.

However, women might also experience:

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty or shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Hiccups

 “Don’t ignore the signs of stroke,” urged Robertson. “If you have any of the signs, acting fast improves your chances for recovery.”

Take a look at the infographic below for more on the signs of stroke in women, and talk to your doctor today about your risk.