Women & Stroke - Taking Care of You

Organization: Author:
Angie West, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, SCRN, ANVP, Stroke Program Director, MemorialCare Neuroscience Institute, Long Beach Memorial
Women & Stroke - Taking Care of You

Some women have a tendency to prioritize the care and well-being of those around them before their own. Unfortunately, this may potentially put women’s health in jeopardy. It’s important that women put their health high on the priority list and listen to their body, especially when it comes to stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association, women face a higher risk of stroke. Here are some facts that highlight the increased risk:

  • 1 in 5 women has a stroke during her life
  • Stroke is the third leading cause of death in women
  • Of 129,476 stroke deaths in one year, 77,109 are women
    (Statistics are from 2010)

Stroke is the leading cause of severe long-term disability, which is why it’s important to take action immediately. Learn the signs and symptoms of stroke with B.E. F.A.S.T. (Balance lost, Eyes blur, Facial droop, Arm weakness, Slurred speech or difficulty speaking, Time). Recognizing the B.E. F.A.S.T. symptoms, calling 911 and noting the time of the first symptom can save lives.

Everyone should talk with their health care provider about how to lower their risk and prevent stroke. As a primary stroke center and regional leader in stroke rapid response, the MemorialCare Neuroscience Institute at Long Beach Memorial knows that prevention is key with stroke. Knowing the increased risks for stroke that women are faced with can help generate a discussion with your health care provider.

Prevent Stroke, Know the Risks

One of the most common reasons women have more strokes is pregnancy. About three of 10,000 pregnant women have a stroke during pregnancy. Preeclampsia, a term for high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, doubles the risk for stroke later in life.

Birth control pills also may double the risk of stroke, especially for women who have high blood pressure.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is widely used for treatment of menopausal symptoms. Once thought to lower stroke risk, HRT is now known to increase stroke risk for women.

Migraines affect three times the number of women than men. Some sufferers of migraines experience an “aura.” An aura refers to symptoms that signal a migraine is about to strike. Some visual symptoms of aura are described as white spots, tunnel vision, geometric patterns, flashing lights or shimmering effects. Other sensory symptoms of aura include weak limbs, numbness or a prickly feeling in the hands or limbs that travels toward the face, and even speech impairment. A migraine with aura symptoms is similar to the signs of stroke.

There are subtle differences between a migraine with aura and a stroke. Stroke occurs suddenly, with symptoms striking fast. With migraines aura symptoms occur gradually, taking several minutes to peak. Migraine sufferers typically experience similar symptoms with each migraine starting from their youth. If you have never had a migraine or your migraine deviates from its normal symptoms, call 911 to rule out a stroke.

For more on stroke prevention, treatment, rehab and caregiver support, visit MemorialCare.org/LBStroke.

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