Girls get all the luck. Like heart disease, stroke favors women. In a given year in the United States, roughly 425,000 women suffer stroke. That’s 55,000 more women than men. This doesn’t mean we’re delicate flowers, and it certainly doesn’t mean we are helpless against stroke. The way you take care of yourself can go a long way to preventing stroke.
Also called a brain attack, a stroke is a brain injury in which blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted — by blockage in an artery or ruptured blood vessels in the brain. The way it affects you depends on where in your brain the injury occurs.
You could be at risk of stroke if you
• Have high blood pressure that isn’t controlled
• Have a family history of stroke, especially with the women in your family
• Are diabetic
• Have a history of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
• Have elevated cholesterol
• Are African-American
• Have a history of heart attack
You’re ten times more likely to suffer a stroke if you have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA, or mini-stroke). TIA looks like a stroke, but then the symptoms resolve. You need to go to an emergency room if you think you have had a TIA. If you think you have previously had a TIA but did not seek attention at the time, see your health care provider so that you can be evaluated.
Symptoms of stroke overlap in men and women, and some symptoms are unique to women. Both men and women experience the following symptoms:
• Dizziness, trouble walking, and loss of balance
• Sudden severe headache with no known cause
• Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Trouble speaking and understanding
• Sudden numbness or weakness in the face
In women, the following symptoms also are common:
• Sudden face and limb pain
• Sudden hiccups
• Sudden nausea
• Sudden general weakness
• Sudden chest pain
• Sudden shortness of breath
• Sudden palpitations
Act FAST when stroke strikes
Every second counts for a stroke victim: The most effective treatment is available if stroke is recognized and diagnosed within the first three hours of the symptoms.
If you think someone is having a stroke, act FAST:
F = Face: Ask the person to smile; does one side of his or her face droop?
A = Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms; does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase; is his or her speech slurred
T = Time: If you see any of these symptoms call 911 immediately.
If you’re concerned about stroke — especially if you think you might have had a stroke or TIA, or if you have a family history of stroke — check in with your health care provider to discuss what you can do to help stave off stroke. You can also send questions to me directly or call 317-338-4HER to find out more.