What Women Need to Know About Strokes

Every year, strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. What’s more, women can have different stroke symptoms than men.


There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year and that is around one stroke every five minutes.

Around 1 in 5 women will have a stroke in their life and the rate of first time strokes in people aged 45 and over is expected to increase by 59% in the next 20 years (between now and 2035).

Risk factors

Diabetes and heart disease, both risk factors for stroke, as are high alcohol consumption and smoking, but these are usually more common in men than women.

Hormonal factors play a part in strokes in women and if you take birth control pills, you are twice as likely to have a stroke and you should be checked for high blood pressure even before going on low oestrogen pills.

Hormonal contraception with oestrogen can increase the chance of blood clots and studies have reported that taking the pill can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke by 1.6 times.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can slightly increase your risk of stroke. For every 1,000 women taking HRT, an extra six will have a stroke and an extra eight will develop a blood clot.

Pregnancy related high blood pressure could also raise your risk and if you get migraines with visual disturbances, you can be 10 times more likely to have a stroke.

And if you’re depressed or under a lot of stress, that also raises your risk.

What are the symptoms?

Around 80% of strokes are preventable, so know the risks and the symptoms.

Some signs women and men have in common are dizziness, headaches, confusion, and numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg.

Some women get hiccups, hallucinations, and maybe sick to their stomachs but if you suspect a stroke or TIA (mini stroke) do not hesitate but call for immediate medical assistance if you experience any of these 5 key warning signs:

1 – Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, including legs, hands or feet.
2 – Difficulty finding words or speaking in clear sentences
3 – Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes
4 – Sudden memory loss or confusion, and dizziness; or a sudden fall
5 – A sudden, severe headache

How to reduce your risk

Here are seven ways to start reining in your risks today to avoid stroke, before it has the chance to strike.

1.  Lower blood pressure and know your numbers so you stay on the right side for your age, height and weight
2.  Lose weight and the Mediterranean diet in particular is helpful in reducing stroke risk in women
3.  Exercise regularly in a way you will maintain whether that’s walking, gardening, dancing or the gym
4.  If you drink do it in moderation as alcohol increases risk
5. Treat atrial fibrillation and report any irregular heart problems
6.  Treat diabetes as that is another risk factor you can often control
7.  Quit smoking if you are still doing so as that will reduce risk too