A stroke is a result of a sudden disruption of the brain’s blood supply. Strokes are more common in men but women are more likely to suffer life-threatening consequences when they suffer one. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 5 American women suffers at least one stroke in their lifetime and 60% of them die as a result.
What’s the reason that makes women more vulnerable to strokes?
The first thing is that women usually live longer than men and with age comes a greater risk of a stroke. Secondly, women are prone to hypertension, which also increases the risk of suffering a stroke. Birth control pills as well as pregnancy can increase the risk of the condition. Strokes mostly happen as a result of a blockage in the brain arteries but they can also be caused by brain bleeds or burst blood vessels. There are many things that can increase the risk or lead to a stroke, but the most important thing about this condition is to recognize the warning signs in the days leading up to the stroke. This will help you recognize when it’s going to happen and be able to seek immediate help – something that can mean life or death.
Warning signs of a stroke in women
You may think these are the same like in men, but that’s not true. Strokes in women manifest a bit differently and here are the most common symptoms:
- Breathing difficulties
- General weakness
The symptoms above are more common for women and they can be symptomatic of a number of medical conditions, not just of a stroke. That’s why it can be difficult for a medical professional to properly diagnose the condition before it’s too late. But here’s where you need to step in and analyze your overall condition so that you can properly protect yourself.
The FAST method
The FAST method helps you check quickly for warning signs of a stroke. FAST stands for face, arms, speech and time. First check the face, does it feel numb or as if it’s drooping on one side? Then check the arms, when you raise them both does one stay lower than the other? Do you feel numbness in the arms? Then comes the speech, is it slurred? And lastly, if the answer is yes to any of the questions above, it’s of utmost importance that you call 911 ASAP because time is of the essence. Don’t try to drive to the hospital yourself, you may cause an accident. It’s best to call the paramedics and wait for them to come and help you professionally. The faster you get help the lower the chances of your stroke leaving permanent consequences.
Main causes of stroke
As we already said before, stokes are caused by interrupted blood supply to the brain or a bleeding in the brain. There are a few main types of strokes and they’re caused by different things:
Thrombotic strokes are a result of blood clots in the arteries in the brain.
Ischemic strokes are caused by blood clots which block the brain arteries and the blood clots are usually a result of plaque buildup in the arteries.
Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by a burst blood vessel in the brain (bleeding in the brain).
Embolic strokes are a result of a blood clot which happens somewhere else in the body but travels to the brain.
How to treat a stroke?
Depending on the type of stroke, there are different approaches to treatment. Ischemic strokes are the most common types of strokes which as we said are caused by a blood clot. After the initial examination, your doctor will probably prescribe tPA medication which needs to be taken within 3-4 hours after the stroke for best results. If for any reason, the patient can’t take a tPA drug the doctor could prescribe blood thinners to prevent the clots from forming. There’s also surgery which can break up any remaining clots and can be done up to 24 hours after the stroke.
Then there are the hemorrhagic strokes, which are treated by treating the underlying cause. If the stroke was caused by hypertension, you’ll probably receive a prescription for anti-hypertension medication. If the reason was broken veins or defective arteries, you may need an arteriovenous malformation repair to prevent the arteries from bursting again. And if the stroke was caused by an aneurysm, the doctor will probably perform surgery to restrict the aneurysm’s blood flow.
How to prevent future strokes?
The most important thing, when it comes to stroke prevention, is to closely monitor your health and be observant for any of the warning symptoms. Additionally, you can introduce some lifestyle changes which will not only prevent strokes, but will improve your overall health as well.
You should consider being more physically active, start a healthy, balanced diet, reduce your stress exposure, keep a healthy weight and quit smoking or stop drinking excessively.
For women, there are a few additional measures of precaution which need to be taken into consideration. Get yourself scanned for hypertension if you plan on starting birth control. If you’re over 75 years of age get tested for AFib and if you’re pregnant observe your blood pressure during the pregnancy and after giving birth.