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Subtle stroke symptoms in women

Recognize these lesser-known signs.

Article Author: Juliette Allen

Article Date:

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Time is brain. BE FAST.

These are just two of the popular mantras that help people recognize the signs of stroke and understand the importance of getting help immediately. While many know to look for one-sided numbness, weakness or facial drooping, slurred speech and loss of balance, there are other symptoms that may be less obvious. And, just like with heart attacks, strokes sometimes cause different symptoms in women than men.

Signs of stroke in women

According to an American Heart Association (AHA) analysis of dozens of studies, stroke is more common in men but tends to be more severe in women. This could be because women, on average, experience their first stroke at an older age than men, or because subtle symptoms may initially be attributed to something else. A separate AHA study showed male stroke patients were 25% less likely to be misdiagnosed than female.

“Every second matters when someone is having a stroke, so it’s critical to identify it and get the patient treated immediately,” said Nima Amin Aghaebrahim, MD, a neurointerventionalist with Baptist Lyerly Neurosurgery. “The symptoms someone exhibits depend on which area of the brain is being affected by the stroke, but not everyone will show them in the same way. It’s vital for both doctors and the public to be aware of these lesser-known symptoms – which often occur alongside classic stroke symptoms – so we can investigate further for stroke and ensure there’s no delay in care.”

Female stroke risk factors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in women, and one in five women between the ages of 55 and 75 will suffer from the life-threatening condition.

General risk factors for stroke include:

In women specifically, risk factors include:

“Natural estrogen has shown to have a protective benefit against stroke,” Dr. Nima explained. “As women near and go through menopause, they experience a drop in estrogen, which puts them at higher risk of stroke. Additionally, oral birth control contains a synthetic form of estrogen which, unlike natural estrogen, may actually increase stroke risk in some people.”

Fast stroke treatment saves lives

Millions of brain cells die each minute a stroke goes untreated, which is why it’s crucial for a person to be brought to a hospital with expertise in stroke diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. The Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville is a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, which means it meets the highest standards for stroke care.

“Our teams are specially trained to recognize signs of stroke, and we coordinate with emergency responders so we’re ready to provide life-saving care the minute someone arrives at the hospital,” said Dr. Nima.

A stroke is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate diagnosis and treatment. If you suspect someone is having a stroke, call 911. To learn more about Baptist Health’s Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center, visit baptistjax.com/stroke or call 904.388.6518.

Sources: The impact of sex and gender on stroke, Sex differences in stroke epidemiology, Women and stroke

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