Women Often Unaware of Stroke Risk
Survey Shows Many of the Most at-Risk Women Can't Identify Risk Factors for Stroke
WebMD News Archive
Identifying Stroke Risk Factors
Roughly half of the women who responded to the survey correctly identified
lack of exercise and high cholesterol as stroke risk factors, and even higher
numbers identified being overweight, smoking, and high blood pressure as risk
But on average they were able to identify less than three out of the
following six classic warning signs of stroke:
- Weakness or numbness
- Sudden vision changes
- Loss of balance or dizziness
- Sudden speech problems
"The perception has largely been that stroke is a disease of older
men," Richard C. Becker, MD, of the Duke University Medical Center
Cardiovascular Thrombosis Center, tells WebMD. "Women tend to have strokes
at older ages, but their strokes also tend to be bigger and more
McCullough says men are more likely to consider themselves at risk for
stroke than women, in part because education campaigns have traditionally
"Men worry about heart attack and stroke and women worry about breast
cancer, because breast cancer awareness campaigns have been so successful,"
she says. "But far more women will die from stroke than breast cancer or
Early Treatment Saves Lives
Getting women to recognize their stroke risk is critical because delaying
treatment can be deadly. Clot-busting drugs, which save lives and lessen stroke
damage, can only be given within the first few hours after symptoms begin.
Because she sought treatment so quickly, Toomey was treated with a clot
"It saved my life, but I was still left paralyzed on my left side,"
Last year the AHA, in collaboration with other health groups, launched a
campaign designed to raise awareness about stroke symptoms called "Give Me
5 for Stroke."
The campaign urges people to call 911 immediately if the following symptoms
- Walk -- Is their balance off?
- Talk -- Is their speech slurred or face droopy?
- Reach -- Is one side weak or numb?
- See -- Is their vision all or partially lost?
- Feel -- Is their headache severe?
"We have found that those who are at the greatest risk are those who are
least aware," Massachusetts General Hospital vice chairman of neurology and
AHA spokesman Lee H. Schwamm, MD, tells WebMD. "That is why it is so
important to get this message out there to everyone."