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Stroke Symptoms in Women

Stroke Symptoms in Women
The term 'stroke' refers to a medical condition wherein an inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to a part of brain causes the brain cells to die. If medical help is not sought immediately, the affected individual can suffer from permanent brain damage. Symptoms of stroke are often missed in case of women, as they are less likely to experience the classic symptoms of stroke. The following write-up provides information on stroke symptoms in women.
Mayuri Kulkarni
Last Updated: Feb 14, 2018
A stroke, which is also referred to as cerebrovascular accident or brain attack, occurs in the event of disruption of the blood supply to a part of the brain. Oxygen and vital nutrients are transported via blood to various parts of the body, including brain cells. At times, the blood supply can get disrupted due to a blockage in the blood vessels supplying the brain. Rupturing of the blood vessels can cause bleeding in the brain, which in turn may affect the supply of oxygenated blood in an adverse manner.

Under such circumstances, the affected individual is diagnosed with an ischemic stroke. A transient ischemic attack, which is commonly referred to as a mini stroke, is said to occur when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted due to a blockage for a short period. The symptoms of a mini stroke may last from a few minutes to 24 hours. A mini stroke is considered to be a warning sign for an impending stroke, and is not associated with permanent brain damage.

A hemorrhagic stroke is said to occur when blood supply is disrupted due to bleeding within the brain. Timely medical intervention is of utmost importance when it comes to a stroke, as a delay in treatment can lead to permanent brain damage, or even death. It is therefore essential to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. It must be noted that women are less likely to experience the classic symptoms of stroke that are exhibited by men. The symptoms experienced during a stroke vary, depending on the location of blockage or bleeding in the brain.
Symptoms of Stroke in Women
When women suffer from a brain attack, they are likely to experience symptoms that are vague or atypical. This increases the risk of a misdiagnosis or a delay in treatment. Though atypical symptoms may sometimes be observed in men, women are more likely to experience them.
Respiratory Problems
Studies have revealed that women are likely to experience breathing problems during a stroke. Since breathing problems are often indicative of medical conditions associated with the lungs or heart, there is a risk of misdiagnosis and the consequent delay in treatment.
Fainting/Loss of Consciousness
It has been observed that women affected by stroke are likely to faint or lose consciousness. The disruption of blood supply to a part of the brain causes the affected individual to faint or lose consciousness. There could be falls or accidents. The chances of a misdiagnosis are higher if the affected individual has fainted, as the doctors can't assess her for the usual symptoms of stroke.
Seizures occur due to sudden, uncontrolled electrical activity in the brain. The symptoms depend on the part of the brain where the abnormal electrical activity takes place.
Other atypical symptoms that women may experience during a stroke include:
  • Fatigue
  • Chest Pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Coordination problems
  • Hiccups
  • Nausea
  • Pain in arms, legs, or face
Classic Symptoms of Stroke
Stoke symptoms
The sudden onset of symptoms is due to the sudden interruption in the blood supply to a part of the brain. Two or more of the following symptoms are observed in men and women.
  • Sudden impairment of speech
  • Difficulty in understanding
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg that usually affects one side of the body
  • Confusion
  • Onset of a sudden and severe headache
  • Difficulty seeing with one or both eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with balance and coordination
How to Recognize the Signs of a Stroke
It's extremely essential to recognize the warning signs of stroke, so that the affected individual gets prompt medical treatment. The risk of irreversible brain damage or life-threatening complications can be averted if medical assistance is sought by family members or even a bystander. Here are some ways to understand if a person is having a stroke.
  1. Ask the person to smile. See if one side of the face droops when that person smiles.
  2. Ask the person to raise both arms. See if one of the arms drifts downward.
  3. Ask the person to repeat a phrase. Is the speech slurred?
If yes, then dial 911 immediately. Listen carefully to the instructions given by the person who takes the call. Remember that medical help must be sought even if the symptoms resolve soon.
Risk Factors
A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of various medical conditions that can make a person susceptible to stroke. Here are some of the common risk factors.
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Atrial fibrillation
Strokes can be prevented by making lifestyle changes. These include:
  • Follow a healthy diet and an exercise regimen to prevent yourself from gaining weight.
  • Diabetics must cut down on the intake of food items that are rich in sugar.
  • Cut down on the intake of processed food and food items that are rich in saturated fat, if your blood pressure is consistently high.
  • Refrain from smoking and limit your intake of alcohol.
Stroke is considered to be a medical emergency, and requires prompt medical treatment. Unfortunately, there is a delay in diagnosis and treatment of stroke in case of women as they may not exhibit the classic signs of stroke. This can put them at a risk of suffering from brain damage, paralysis, or even death. Brain function can be restored if medical attention is sought immediately, which is why an effort must be made to increase the awareness on the warning signs and symptoms of stroke in women.
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