No two strokes are ever the same, but there are warning signs to watch for that signal that a person may have a stroke. While there are some common signs to watch for, please keep in mind that women and men have different risk factors and both also have stroke symptoms that are specific to each gender.
Stroke Risk Factors for Women
Risk factors such as smoking or diabetes are common among both men and women in terms of increasing their risk of stroke. However, women should be aware of other risk factors that specifically increase the likelihood of them falling prey to a stroke.
Pregnancy, birth control pills, and hormone replacement therapy can be additional risk factors for women when it comes to stroke. These conditions raise levels of estrogen in the body. In addition to being a hormone, it is also a coagulant that clots the blood. When estrogen levels increase in the body, the chances of a stroke also rise.
Estrogen levels increase in a woman’s body during the later stages of pregnancy and also right after giving birth. In addition, taking birth control pills can also increase a woman’s estrogen levels. Finally, many women take hormone replacement therapy medications while going through menopause. This can be another risk factor for some women.
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Signs of a Stroke in Women
Stroke symptoms in women tend to be slightly different from those in men. Pre-stroke warning signs can include hallucinations, hiccups, and a sudden change in behavior. Additional symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
Of course, women can also have the more common stroke symptoms such as sudden weakness or numbness in the arm, leg, face or on one side of their body. Sudden dizziness, loss of balance, or a sudden severe headache can also be a sign of a stroke.
Signs of Stroke in Men
There are also symptoms of a stroke in men. The three most common are face drooping, speech difficulty, and arm weakness.
- Face drooping – If you notice that one side of your loved one’s face is drooping, you should ask them if it is numb. Also, ask them to smile to determine if their smile is lopsided.
- Speech difficulty – If you notice sudden slurred speech or if your loved one is unable to speak at all or very difficult to understand, they may have had a stroke. Ask them to repeat a short sentence to see if they can.
- Arm weakness – If your loved one complains about sudden arm weakness ask them to raise both arms then watch to see if one of their arms drifts downwards.
If your loved one does show any of these symptoms, even if they don’t last, you need to get them immediate medical attention. Time is of the essence in reducing the effects of a stroke.
The Stroke Belt
Another lesser-known risk factor has to do with whether a person lives in a specific geographic region of the United States. The Stroke Belt is a group of Southeastern states that have higher rates of stroke in men. These states include Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas.
It has been shown that men who were both born and raised in these state have a higher mortality rate from strokes. This could be due to a higher fat diet based around regional staples packed with butter, cheese, and other foods that are higher in artery-clogging substances.
No matter where you live, you should be on the look out for signs of stroke in both men and women. Knowing what to look for and then acting quickly can save a life.