By Sarah Mulukutla, MD, MPH and Grace Capone, RN, BSN, Nurse Manager-Quality, Stroke Program Coordinator
Let’s start with the facts. This year, about 800,000 Americans will suffer from a stroke. Stroke is a medical term that describes brain damage that occurs when a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes occluded or experiences abnormal bleeding.
Did you know that women make up 60% of Americans affected by stroke? Each year, twice as many women die from stroke than from breast cancer. Stroke is the 4th leading cause of death in the US, and the 3rd leading cause of death for American women.
That’s why on February, 5, we honor Go Red for Women Day to spread awareness about heart disease and stroke in women. Everyone is welcome to celebrate this day in their own way, whether medical staff chooses to wear red uniforms or the general community adds a little more red to their day.
We know the truth about stroke can be hard to swallow. But knowing the signs and symptoms will help you get to the hospital more quickly.
- SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
- SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause
F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. Remember that it is important to act quickly, call 911 and get to the hospital.
- Face drooping - Does one side of your face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the smile uneven?
- Arm weakness - is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- Speech difficulty - is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand?
- Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Is the sentence repeated correctly?
- Time to call 911-if someone has any of these symptoms, even if they improve, call 911 and get to the hospital immediately. It is important to note the time when the symptoms first appeared.
According to a survey conducted by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center (publication pending), women may have unique symptoms that differ from stroke symptoms experienced by men. They may include:
- Atypical headache or chest pain
- Sudden behavioral change
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or Vomiting
Risk factors for stroke include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Family history
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Additional risk factors for women include:
- Taking birth control pills
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Migraine headaches with aura
Despite all of the facts and symptoms, we’re here to offer hope with the goal of minimizing the likelihood of loss of brain function and reducing long-term disability. The Stroke Center at Stamford Health continues to achieve long-term success in our goal of improving stroke outcomes with clinical expertise and constant monitoring. And you can take comfort in understanding that our dedicated group of nurses, stroke coordinator, neurologists, and physical, speech, and occupational therapists are there to meet your unique, specialized needs.
Let’s work together to reduce the risk of stroke. If you get migraines and smoke, avoid smoking. If you are pregnant, remember to have regular monitoring of your blood pressure during and after pregnancy to lower your risk of stroke. You should be screened for high blood pressure prior to starting a birth control regime. If you have concerns about high blood pressure or stroke, see your physician. Women over 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation.
And remember, Wear Red on February 5, whether it’s a scarf, tie, pin, or seasonal sweater! Let’s all raise awareness to reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease in women together.
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