Most women unable to identify signs of stroke

August 4, 2014

Most women know to call 911 if they think they are having a stroke, according to a national survey by the American Heart Association of more than 1,200 women, recently published in the journal Stroke. But here's the catch: Most would not recognize the signs of a stroke if they actually had one.

About half of the surveyed identified sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body (including the face and limbs) as a sign of , while 44 percent identified speech difficulties (loss of or trouble talking or understanding speech). Fewer than 25 percent identified sudden and severe headache, unexplained dizziness, or sudden loss or dimming of vision in one eye. Moreover, 20 percent did not know even one sign of a stroke.

More unexpected, perhaps, are the findings of another recent study, in Diagnosis, which analyzed medical records from over 1,000 hospitals in nine states. It found that even miss many strokes in women, especially when women come in complaining of dizziness and headaches. Such symptoms were instead attributed to other conditions (such as a migraine or inner ear infection), or the women were given no diagnosis. Actually, the study found that strokes were commonly missed in men, too, but more often in women, as well as in and people under 45.

All of this is disturbing, since the earlier a stroke is recognized and treated the better the outcome (time loss equals brain loss). Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Americans and the third leading cause in women. And people who survive a stroke often have long-term disabilities that greatly diminish quality of life and increase health-care costs. More women than men suffer strokes, and the prevalence has been rising in younger women (in their 30s and 40s) in recent years. Strokes also affect minority groups more than whites.

To increase awareness, the American Heart Association is promoting the acronym FAST, which stands for Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911. Another helpful acronym is STR (as in stroke), which stands for three simple tests you can give to someone who you think is having a stroke: ask her to Smile, Talk (speak a sentence), and Raise both arms. If she has trouble with any of these, call for help, but keep in mind that many people having a stroke may pass this test.

Explore further: US women unfamiliar with most stroke warning signs

Related Stories

US women unfamiliar with most stroke warning signs

March 19, 2014
Many U.S. women don't know most of the warning signs of a stroke, according to research presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2014 Scientific ...

Delay in seeking stroke care costs women best treatment

July 25, 2013
Women with clot-caused strokes are less likely than men to arrive at the hospital in time to receive the best treatment, according to a European study reported in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

How to quickly spot signs of stroke

May 13, 2013
(HealthDay)—Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs on one side of the body, confusion and trouble speaking are among the signs that someone is having a stroke. The sooner a stroke is recognized and treated, ...

Weather changes may be linked with stroke hospitalization, death

February 12, 2014
Stroke hospitalization and death rates may rise and fall with changes in environmental temperature and dew point, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2014.

Stroke prevention for women: start early

June 17, 2014
(HealthDay)—Stroke typically affects women in their later years, but doctors are now beginning to focus on helping them cut their risk earlier in life.

ER doctors commonly miss more strokes among women, minorities and younger patients

April 3, 2014
Analyzing federal health care data, a team of researchers led by a Johns Hopkins specialist concluded that doctors overlook or discount the early signs of potentially disabling strokes in tens of thousands of American each ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.