Surprising Symptoms May Signal Stroke in Women - Virtua Health, NJ

What to Know About the Unique Signs of Stroke in Women

By , Cardiologist—Virtua Cardiology

How many times have you been so exhausted you felt like you were walking around in a fog, or had a sudden, severe headache? Like many women, you probably just brushed it off as part of the daily juggle of work and home.

What’s surprising is that these feelings can be signs of a stroke in women. As with a heart attack, women can have different symptoms of stroke than men. For example, women may have more vague, atypical symptoms—like confusion or general weakness—rather than weakness on one side of the body.

Symptoms strike suddenly

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off. This “brain attack” can cause brain cells to die, resulting in serious consequences—such as paralysis, trouble speaking, problems thinking, and death.

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death for women. Each year, 55,000 more women suffer a stroke than men.

The “classic” warning signs of stroke in women (and men) often can be noticed by others around you. They include the following sudden symptoms:

  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm, or leg—especially on only one side of the body
  • Poor balance and/or stumbling
  • Dizziness
  • Slurred speech or trouble speaking or understanding others
  • Severe headache with no apparent cause
  • Vision problems in one or both eyes

Some women experience other, understated symptoms that they dismiss or may be hesitant to seek medical attention for. These different signs include:

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsiveness, or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Agitation
  • Pain
  • Hallucination
  • Seizures
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hiccups

So how can you tell that general exhaustion isn't just being overworked, or that vomiting isn't the result of an upset stomach from lunch?

The key is that these symptoms appear suddenly, or as a change in body function that you can’t readily explain.

Don’t hesitate—call 911

Minutes matter during a stroke, so it’s important to be aware of all the possible symptoms you may experience, not just the more well-known ones.

Remember, the longer you take to get effective treatment, the more brain tissue dies and the worse your outcome will be. Don’t take the chance. Call 911 right away.

Updated April 26, 2022

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