A stroke occurs when a part of the brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs due to a loss of blood supply. It is the third leading cause of death for women and is the leading cause of serious long-term disability in the United States, with approximately 750,000 cases occurring each year.
Strokes can have a more negative and long-term impact for women, since they generally live longer than men.
General risk factors of stroke include:
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Unique risk factors of stroke for women include:
- Taking birth control pills (Prior to starting a birth control regimen, you should be screened for risk factors of stroke and quit smoking.)
- Being pregnant (Your blood pressure should be monitored during and after pregnancy to lower the risk of stroke.)
- Using hormone replacement therapy
The symptoms of a stroke usually begin suddenly, but sometimes develop over hours or days. The sudden onset should be a red flag to seek urgent medical attention.
Depending upon the area affected, a person may develop:
- Facial drooping
- Slurring of speech/language problems
- Loss of vision, hearing and/or balance
Women may report more vague symptoms such as:
- General weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion/behavioral problems
- Nausea or vomiting
Get help as fast as you can
Anyone who has signs or symptoms of a stroke should seek immediate medical attention in an emergency department because early treatment can reduce the brain damage that results from a stroke.
Treatment depends on the type of stroke and the timing from the first symptom. The damage from a stroke may be temporary or permanent. Medications like “clot busters” have a limited window of time to be administered which further emphasizes the need for going to the hospital immediately. Do not take aspirin at home because some strokes are caused by bleeding and will get worse with aspirin.
A person's long-term outcome depends upon how much of the brain is damaged, how quickly treatment begins and several other factors.
Learn more about your risk of stroke. Take the Ochsner Stroke Risk Assessment here.