Symptoms of a Stroke in Women

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 act immediately. Getting quick stroke treatment can save lives.

How do I know if I’m having a stroke?

Signs of stroke in women can be subtle enough to be missed or brushed off. That can lead to delays in getting time-sensitive, lifesaving treatments.

Here are some common stroke symptoms:

  • Numbness or weakness in face, arm or leg
  • Trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Vision problems
  • Trouble walking or a lack of coordination or balance
  • Severe headache without a known cause

Additional stroke symptoms that might be seen in women:

  • Disorientation and confusion or memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • 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 about 30 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 may triple the risk of stroke later in life. If you have any history of high blood pressure, talk to your health care professional 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 therapy –  When used in the initial years after menopause, hormone therapy may provide some cardiovascular benefits. However, using hormone therapy later in menopause does not appear to have a protective effect against coronary heart disease and stroke and may raise a woman’s cardiovascular risks. Speak with your health care professional about whether hormone therapy is right for you.

  • 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%.

Do Black women have a higher risk of stroke?

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.

Learn more about how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T.