A stroke, sometimes called a brain attack, happens when blood flow to an area of the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Blood carries oxygen to cells in the body, and when brain cells are starved of blood, they die. A stroke is a medical emergency, and it’s important to act F.A.S.T. and get treatment as soon as possible. Call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone you are with shows any signs of having a stroke. Some treatments for stroke work only if given within the first three hours after symptoms start. A delay in treatment increases the risk of permanent brain damage or death. Keep reading to learn more about everything women need to know about strokes.

Strokes: What Women Need to Know


F.A.S.T. is an acronym that makes it easy to recognize and act on stroke symptoms: Think FAST.


Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?


Ask the person to lift up both arms. Does one arm drift downward, or is one arm unable to raise up?


Ask the person to repeat a simple or common phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange-sounding?


If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 — immediately.

In some cases, you may be tempted to downplay these symptoms and not want to go to the hospital. This is normal but ill-advised. Get to the hospital where experts are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke. With time being so critical in the care of stroke patients, the best thing you can do is call 911. DO NOT drive yourself to the hospital.

Researchers in a 2009 study found that altered mental status was the most common nontraditional symptom when a stroke occurs. About 23 percent of women and 15 percent of men reported altered mental status related to stroke. Although both men and women can be affected, women are about one and a half times more likely to report at least one nontraditional stroke symptom.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 American women will have a stroke – nearly 60 percent will die from the attack. Stroke is the third leading cause of death for American women.

There are many reasons why women are more likely to have a stroke than men. Women live longer than men, and age is another important risk factor for stroke. Women are also more likely to have high blood pressure. Pregnancy and birth control also increase a woman’s risk of stroke.

Women’s bodies are not the same as men’s and stroke affects them differently at different stages of life. The risk of stroke is higher during pregnancy. As women’s bodies adapt to menopause, stroke risk increases again. Elderly women are especially vulnerable. They are the most likely to have a stroke; their strokes are the most severe; their outcomes are the poorest, and stroke can put an end to their independence.

The more you know about the symptoms of stroke in women, the faster you’ll be able to get help. Quick treatment can mean the difference between disability and recovery.

Stroke Symptoms in Women

Women may report symptoms not often associated with strokes in men. These can include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • seizures
  • hiccups
  • trouble breathing
  • pain
  • fainting or loss of consciousness
  • general weakness

Because these symptoms are unique to women, it may be difficult to immediately connect them to stroke. This can delay treatment, which may hinder recovery.

If you’re a woman and unsure whether your symptoms are that of a stroke, you should still call your local emergency services. Once paramedics arrive on the scene, they can assess your symptoms and begin treatment, if needed.

Altered Mental Status

Odd behaviors, such as sudden drowsiness, can also indicate a stroke. Clinicians call these symptoms altered mental status. These symptoms include:

  • unresponsiveness
  • disorientation
  • confusion
  • sudden behavioral change
  • agitation
  • hallucination

Common Stroke Symptoms

Many symptoms of a stroke are experienced by both men and women. Stroke is often characterized by an inability to speak or understand speech, a strained expression, and confusion.

The most common symptoms of a stroke include:

  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden numbness or weakness of your face and your limbs, most likely on one side of your body
  • sudden trouble speaking or understanding, which is related to confusion
  • sudden and severe headache with no known cause
  • sudden dizziness, trouble walking, or loss of balance or coordination

Risk Factors

About 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Many factors can increase a person’s risk of stroke, and some of these also increase the risk of a heart attack, including:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Personal or family history of stroke or heart attack
  • Being age 55 or older


Again, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of the symptoms of a stroke, think FAST, call 911 and get to a hospital right away. Treatment for a stroke depends on whether you have a narrowed or blocked brain artery, in which case blood clot-busting medications may be used. In the case you have a ruptured brain artery, surgery may be more appropriate.

Additional Information: Women and Stroke


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Promedcare services include Personal Care Services, Companion Care Services, Dementia / Alzheimer’s Care Services, and Respiratory Solutions.

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