Most Women Don't Know Stroke Symptoms

According to a national survey by The Ohio State University, most women don’t know their risk factors for stroke, or its symptoms.

Investigators from the university’s Wexner Medical Center found that among 1,000 women who were surveyed, only 11 percent could identify pregnancy, lupus, migraine headaches and oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy as female-specific stroke risks.

Only 10 percent knew that hiccups along with unusual chest pain are among the early warning signs of a stroke.

“I think we have a ways to go when it comes to educating women about stroke and their unique risk factors,” said Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, a neurologist and director of neuroscience critical care at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “Things like pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy and even something as trivial as a case of the hiccups can all play an important role when it comes to strokes in women, and we need to be more aware of it.”

Some risk factors are the same for both women and men, including smoking, not exercising or having a blood pressure higher than 140/90. Other stroke risk factors for men and women include having a hemoglobin A1C of more than 7 if you are already diabetic, or 5.7 if not; as well as having a LDL cholesterol of less than 100 if you are without additional stroke risks, or less than 70 with additional stroke risks, particularly diabetes, she said.

According to a news release from the university, onlinehe assessments are available to help evaluate your stroke risks, said Greene-Chandos, including a simple pen-and-paper test created by Ohio State’s stroke experts that can be downloaded here.

“Women and men should really on focus keeping their blood pressure under 140/90, because having high blood pressure consistently puts people at risk for having a stroke,” said Greene-Chandos, who is part of the team of stroke experts at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center’s Comprehensive Neurovascular Stroke Center.

But symptoms of stroke can be different for women, and may include hiccups, dizziness that is not classic vertigo, headaches, atypical chest pain and/or numbness of the entire body with one side being more numb than the other.

Recognizing a stroke quickly and seeking medical help immediately is crucial. Treatment with a clot-busting drug is only consistently an option within three hours of the onset of the stroke.

Each year, about 795,000 Americans suffer a new or recurrent stroke and more than 137,000 people die from stroke. About 60 percent of stroke deaths occur in females, and 40 percent in males, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA).

The number of people having strokes is rising each year, in part because of the aging population. Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke in the United States, and stroke kills someone in the United States about every four minutes, according to AHA/ASA.

The survey was released to coincide with Stroke Awareness Month in May.

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