Strokes don't always look the same in men and women. Many of us recognize stroke symptoms as:
- Weakness in one arm or on one side of the body
- Drooping facial muscles
But if you're a woman, you may experience more subtle symptoms. Unfortunately, if you overlook these, you may be more likely to suffer serious health complications or even die from a stroke.
Symptoms of a Stroke
Other common stroke symptoms in both men and women include:
- Slurred speech
- Difficulty understanding conversations
- Blurred or double vision
- Loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Loss of balance or coordination
If you're a woman, you may or may not experience these classic stroke symptoms. According to an article in the journal Neuroepidemiology, this is because of female hormones and cerebral artery differences. You might have:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Headache or migraine
- Jaw or neck pain
- Anxiety or a feeling that something just isn't right
- General weakness rather than weakness on just one side
Stroke Risk Factors
Regardless of your sex, if you have high blood pressure, you're at higher risk for stroke. High blood pressure weakens your arteries, so they're more likely to burst. Your risk of blood clots also increases as your blood pressure rises. Blood clots can clog the arteries in the brain, triggering a stroke.
Stroke risk also increases with age, and women tend to live longer than men. Additionally, women have unique risk factors. These include:
Pregnancy stresses the circulatory system and raises blood pressure.
Preeclampsia is a sudden, dangerous spike in blood pressure. This occurs in about 1 in 25 pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Birth Control Pills
Birth control pills may slightly increase your chances of having a stroke. This risk might be higher if you take birth control pills and smoke, have migraines with aura, or high blood pressure.
80% of strokes are preventable, according to the American Stroke Association.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is another stroke risk. The therapy relieves hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, and other symptoms of menopause.
Stroke risk may increase if you experience migraines, particularly migraine with aura. In addition to a headache, symptoms of migraine with aura include flashing or colored lights, tunnel vision, hearing sounds that aren't there, sensitivity to lights or odors, or muscle weakness.
Women who have waists larger than 32.5 inches are more likely to have strokes, according to the National Institutes of Health. A larger waist size is more likely to affect your stroke risk if you are post-menopausal or have high blood fat levels.
Ignoring stroke signs and symptoms could put your life in jeopardy. If you have any possible signs of stroke, don't assume they're minor and will soon go away. Call 911 immediately. The sooner you receive medical treatment, the less likely you'll experience serious or permanent stroke complications.
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