Recognizing the symptoms of stroke

Sometimes, a hiccup isn’t just a hiccup — at least not if you’re a woman.

The symptoms of stroke — a sudden interruption of blood flow in the brain — are different for men and women, and for women sudden hiccups are one of the signs.

Stroke occurs when a blood vessel gets blocked or bursts, and it keeps brain cells in that area of the brain from getting blood and oxygen. Brain cells die within minutes of oxygen deprivation, meaning that whatever part of the body they control loses function, too.

Stroke AssessmentThere is also a “mini” version of a stroke called transient ischemic attack (TIA). During TIA, an artery is blocked for a short time, causing the same symptoms as stroke but lasting only a few moments. TIA can signal a coming stroke, and so it’s important to get medical attention even for this smaller, fleeting version of stroke.

Seeing the signs

In the United States, stroke strikes every 40 seconds, and someone dies from stroke every 3 to 4 minutes. Knowing how to recognize the symptoms of stroke is especially important for two reasons:

  • The faster you take action, the less the damage you suffer from stroke.
  • 55,000 more women than men experience stroke each year. In fact, twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer in a given year.

The symptoms of stroke come on fast. Those that affect men and women are

  • Sudden loss of balance, dizziness, and trouble walking
  • Sudden severe headache without a clear cause
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one eye or both
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in face, arm, or leg

The symptoms unique to women are

  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden general weakness
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden palpitations

Acting FAST

Because every second counts for treating stroke, you need to know how to recognize it so that you can call 911 and get the stroke victim the most effective possible treatment. Here’s a checklist (complete with handy acronym) for identifying stroke:

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. You can also take a free risk assessment, and you can send questions to me directly or call 317-338-4HER to find out more.

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