If it seems like you are seeing a lot of information about stroke in various publications or on TV this month, it’s because May is National Stroke Awareness month.

If it seems like you are seeing a lot of information about stroke in various publications or on TV this month, it’s because May is National Stroke Awareness month. Hopefully, you have been reminded about the symptoms of a stroke and what it means to “Act F.A.S.T.” This column will focus on some lesser recognized signs of stroke in women. Just like heart attack symptoms, stroke symptoms can appear differently in women than in men.


Women are twice as likely to die from a stroke than men, according to the National Stroke Association. One of the reasons may be that stroke symptoms in women may not look like a stroke at all, or at least what many of us recognize as classic stroke symptoms. Women having a stroke are also more likely than men to delay getting treatment, especially when the symptoms don’t seem to fit what we know.


This delay can cause a dramatic difference in the process of recovery from a stroke for women who wait. The clot-busting drug TPA must be given within three hours of the onset of symptoms in order to be effective. Fewer women than men survive a stroke, and for those who do, the long-term disability rate is 50 percent.


Classic stroke symptoms are sudden numbness, weakness, or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body. Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech, and sudden blurred, double or decreased vision are signs of stroke. Other symptoms are sudden dizziness, loss of balance or loss of coordination, confusion and memory, spatial orientation or perception problems. A sudden, severe headache with no known cause can also be a symptom of a stroke.


In addition to or instead of those traditional stroke signs, a woman may experience the following when having a stroke:




Shortness of breath.

Sudden pain in the face, chest, arms or legs.

Sudden hiccups.

Sudden nausea.

Sudden tiredness/weakness.

Sudden pounding or racing heartbeat.

Some of those sound suspiciously similar to heart attack symptoms, don’t they? Here’s the bottom line: do not wait these symptoms out. If you experience any of these symptoms, get emergency help immediately. It’s better to get checked out and be wrong and yes, maybe have to pay for an emergency department visit or ambulance trip, than to suffer a stroke and its aftermath.


If you are not familiar with the Act F.A.S.T. concept, here it is in a nutshell. If you suspect that someone may be having a stroke, look at their face (F) and ask them to smile. Is one side droopy?  Ask them to raise their arms (A). Does one side not move or is it weaker than the other side? Is their speech (S) slurred? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, then emergency treatment is required, the sooner the better (Time).


The fastest-growing age group of women stroke victims is 45-54, so this is not a disease of the elderly only. We all need to know the signs and be prepared to call an ambulance to enable early treatment for anyone we suspect may be having a stroke.


 


Pam Maxson is a health educator at Noyes Hospital in Dansville. If you have questions or suggestions for future articles, she can be reached at pmaxson@noyes-hospital.org or 585-335-4327.