QUESTION

I'm confused about stroke symptoms that present in women. Should I look for the same symptoms as men or different ones?

ANSWER

The answer is both—but start with the "classic" symptoms that both men and women experience. Knowing these common symptoms is an essential starting point. These include…

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • Paralysis on one side of the face or one arm or leg
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Trouble speaking
  • Difficulty understanding what others are saying
  • Blurred or double vision in one or both eyes.
The American Heart Association developed the acronym "F-A-S-T" to help boil down key symptoms and what to do…Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time—call 911 immediately! But recent research has found that women can also show different signs of stroke. It's particularly important to pay attention as you get older, as stroke risk starts to rise in the years just before menopause. Women are more likely than men to…
  • Feel disoriented, confused or agitated
  • Experience sudden shortness of breath with no apparent cause
  • Feel nauseated or even vomit. How to tell that it’s a sign of a stroke? If it’s GI-related, it will likely be accompanied by diarrhea and/or fever. But if it is accompanied by more classic symptoms such as being unsteady when walking or dizziness, suspect stroke.
  • Fainting—even hallucinating
  • Hiccups—this could be a sign of a disruption of the breathing center in the brain. Pay attention to accompanying symptoms such as dizziness, numbness or weakness. These will be clues that the hiccups may be stroke-related.
Knowing the stroke symptoms that are specific to women may help you identify the need for emergency help sooner. And, when it comes to stroke, every second counts. To learn more, read Bottom Line’s article "Women and Stroke—What You Need to Know to Survive."