A stroke happens when a blood clot travels to, or forms, in a part of the brain. Deprived of oxygen, the brain cells in the affected area die off. A stroke is serious: 1 out of 5 of women who have one die. One reason for that mortality is that stroke symptoms in women are less common than those seen in men. That means their symptoms are more easily missed.
Risk Factors For Everyone
The most common ones that everyone recognises and generally aware of are:
** High blood pressure
** Being even slightly overweight
** Family history
The classic symptoms of strokes include:
* Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Specific Risks For Young Women:
The classic risks may not apply in the case of women in their 20s and 30s. These are specific to that age group:
Migraines are more common in women then men and are vascular headaches that cause blood vessels to spasm. These spasms are believed to increase the risk of strokes since they can cause blood flow loss to the brain and create clotting.
Oestrogen dominance is known to be a risk factor if oestrogen is not balanced by progesterone. Low thyroid levels and even low blood sugar can also be a cause of migraine.
Although it occurs in a relatively small percentage of women, taking the birth control pill can cause blood clots related to strokes. You need to be extra aware of this risk factor, especially if you have other risk factors such as high blood pressure or a family history.
Pregnancy and Birth
During pregnancy and birth, a woman experiences major hormonal changes and blood pressure typically rises. Studies show that during the post-partum period, especially within the first 6 weeks after delivery, a woman’s risk of having a stroke is 2.5 times higher than usual.
Keeping hormones in balance is critical, particularly after the birth when progesterone levels drop steeply.
A new study showed that as little as one fizzy or sugary juice drink a day increases the risk of stroke in women by 83% but not in men. A separate study showed that diet drinks also increases a woman’s risk.
Sudden Neck Movement
Exercise is healthy, but as the neck houses major arteries that transport blood to the brain any sudden movements that cause you to flex or extend the neck too far can break a blood vessel or cause a blood clot. While this is rare, you should still be aware and be gentle with yourself.
Less Common Symptoms: .
While women can and do experience the classic symptoms of stroke, they can also experience different symptoms that are often dismissed as something else.
Sudden Nausea and Vomiting:
These symptoms are usually very sudden and are often accompanied by other more common stroke symptoms.
Pain on One Side of the Body:
Numbness or tingling are common but women often feel pain that can occur anywhere in the body, such as the face, arm, or leg.
This can be a trigger in women, but not in men. These involuntary contractions of the diaphragm are controlled by nerves in the brain which, when irritated, may cause a stroke.
Women often experience a sudden fit of sleepiness, such as the urge to lie down and take a nap before having a stroke. However, taking a nap is the worst thing you can do when having a stroke since your brain needs to stay active so you can take action and get help right away.
Action if you think you are having a stroke:
Stroke symptoms tend to come on suddenly, and you will often experience at least two symptoms.
If you think you’re having a stroke, call for help immediately. For effective treatment you need to get to a hospital within 3 hours for best chance of recovery.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. This is a simple way to check if someone needs help. Do this simple test:
F—FACE: Ask them to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—ARMS: Ask them to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—SPEECH: Ask them to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call immediately for help.