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Women and strokes: Facts, signs, symptoms

Published On: Nov 16 2012 01:28:07 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 06 2012 12:36:37 PM CST
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(NewsUSA) - Imagine that you are out shopping with your mother, and she suddenly gets severe hiccups, shortness of breath or palpitations. Maybe you even notice sudden face and limb pain, nausea, chest pain or general weakness.

Could it be a stroke? You think that some of these signs don't fit common stroke symptoms, but you might not know that women can display different symptoms than men. According to the American Stroke Association, five warning signs for both men and women can include:

* numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg -- especially on one side of the body

* confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

* trouble seeing in one or both eyes

* trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

* severe headache with no known cause

However, some of the most common complaints among women without any of the five warning signs can be loss of consciousness or fainting, difficulty breathing, pain, nausea, migraines and seizures.

According to Eva M. Rzucidlo, MD, a vascular surgeon and chair of the Women's Leadership Committee in the Society for Vascular Surgery, persons also may experience a different stroke warning sign called a transient ischemic attack, which lasts for a few minutes to one hour. A TIA can be similar to other stroke symptoms, but usually disappear within 24 hours.

Sixty percent of people who have strokes are women. Call 911 if you notice someone having any signs of stroke. Patients can be treated with a clot-buster medication, if used within three hours after first symptoms. Your quick response may help one of the 100,000-plus women under the age of 65 each year who have a stroke and reduce possible long-term disability.

Ask your vascular surgeon if you would benefit from a noninvasive vascular screening that may identify any blood flow issues or blockages in your arteries. Make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes numbers are under control. Be active, have a healthy diet, limit alcohol, watch your weight and do not smoke.