Men and women who have strokes often feel similar symptoms such as face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. Other common signs include problems seeing out of one or both eyes and balance or coordination problems.
But some women have symptoms subtle enough to be missed or brushed off. That can lead to delays in getting time-sensitive, lifesaving treatments.
How do I know I’m having a stroke?
Symptoms in Men and Women
- Numbness or weakness in face, arm or leg
- Trouble speaking or understanding speech
- Vision problems
- Trouble walking or a lack of coordination
- Severe headache without a known cause
Additional Symptoms in Women
- General weakness
- Disorientation and confusion or memory problems
- Nausea or vomiting
Why are women at higher risk of stroke than men?
Higher stroke risk in women might be due to:
- Pregnancy –The risk of stroke in pregnant women is 21 per 100,000, with the highest stroke risk during the third trimester and post-partum. Those with high blood pressure should be treated with medications and monitored closely.
- Preeclampsia – This is high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy. Preeclampsia doubles the risk of stroke later in life. If you have any history of hypertension, talk to your healthcare provider about taking low-dose aspirin starting in the second trimester.
- Birth control pills – Birth control pills have become much safer over time, but women who are already at risk of stroke should take extra precautions. Get screened for high blood pressure before the pill is prescribed. And never smoke while taking oral contraceptives.
- Hormone replacement therapy – This type of therapy should never be used to prevent stroke in post-menopausal women.
- Migraines with aura – Migraine with aura is associated with ischemic stroke in younger women, particularly if they smoke or use oral contraceptives. Smokers with migraines accompanied by aura should quit immediately.
- Atrial fibrillation – This increases stroke risk among women over age 75 by 20 percent.
Are Black women at extra risk?
Black women in their 50s may have more than triple the risk of stroke compared with white women of the same age, according to a 2019 study. The study also found that a healthy lifestyle could help curb much of that risk.
The findings suggest strokes are "impacting black women at a time in their lives when they're most productive — at the peak of their lives," said Monik C. Jiménez, lead author of the study, published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke.
Stroke is the No. 5 cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability. That’s why it’s important to take action immediately. Getting quick stroke treatment can save lives.