If you knew that 80% of a medical condition that is the leading cause of long-term disability in the US was preventable, wouldn’t you want to bring attention to it? Unfortunately, strokes are the third leading cause of death for women, compared to it being the fifth leading cause of death for men. Especially for women, it’s important to guard yourself with information and know the symptoms and how to be proactive to reduce your chances.
WHAT IS A STROKE AND WHO IS AT RISK?
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel responsible for delivering blood and oxygen to the brain gets blocked or ruptures. That lack of oxygen causes nerve cells to die, making the part of the body they control lose function. Sometimes this loss of function is permanent.
While anyone can have a stroke, your risk of suffering from one nearly doubles every 10 years after the age of 55, and women are at a higher risk. Additionally, certain races or those with a family history of strokes are at a higher risk.
WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS OF A STROKE?
The American Stroke Association has an easy to remember acronym to help you pinpoint the signs of a stroke – F.A.S.T.
- F - Face drooping.
- A - Arm weakness.
- S - Speech difficulty.
- T - Time to call 911.
If you observe any of these signs in a friend or family member, call 911 so that they can receive attention and treatment as quickly as possible. Depending on the type of stroke, a quick trip to the hospital could make all the difference. The treatment for a stroke depends on the type, and can include removing blood clots or stopping bleeding. Most doctors will recommend therapy and rehabilitation to learn how to live with the effects of a stroke or to re-learn certain physical or social skills that may have been lost.
SYMPTOMS UNIQUE TO WOMEN
Women can have the classic symptoms, but they also usually experience unique symptoms. With such unique symptoms, it can lead to a problem as they aren’t often recognized as a stroke symptom. It’s vital to understand these symptoms as a woman because the most effective treatment for stroke is within the first three hours:
fainting or loss of consciousness
disorientation, unresponsiveness, or confusion
sudden behavioral change
nausea and/or Vomiting
loss of balance
HOW CAN I PREVENT HAVING A STROKE?
In addition to being knowledgeable about your risk factors and your family history (and sharing this information with your doctor), there are also ways that women can prevent the incidence of stroke. Talk to your doctor about starting a low-dose aspirin regimen, which may help reduce the chances of stroke. Quitting smoking is a must, as well as getting your cholesterol checked regularly (for most patients, a yearly physical will suffice).
High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes and is something you should strive to lower in order to reduce your risk. Reducing your blood pressure can be manageable – you should eat a well-balanced diet, limit alcohol, make sure you exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight. Going through these steps will also reduce the other risk factors of a stroke – obesity, heart disease, and other diseases of the arteries.
Here at The Woman’s Clinic, we encourage all of our patients to keep up a healthy lifestyle. Preventing strokes isn’t the only benefit of that lifestyle, either. By keeping yourself healthy, you are more likely to avoid a host of other problems with long-term consequences and lead the best life you can. Don’t skip your annual exam - your doctor will cover stroke and heart disease risks that could save your life! Make your appointment today.