Stroke Warning Signs Often Missed By Women
March 21, 2014

Women Should Educate Themselves On The Warning Signs Of Stroke

Rebekah Eliason for - Your Universe Online

According to a recent study presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2014 Scientific Sessions, many women in the United States are unaware of most warning signals for a stroke.

For this study 1,205 women were surveyed by phone. Researchers found that 51 percent of women correctly identified sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the face as a warning sign of a stroke. Only 44 percent of women were aware that difficulty speaking or garbled speech can be a warning signal of stoke.

Less than 25 percent identified sudden severe headache, unexplained dizziness and sudden vision loss as possible indicators of stroke.

According to the survey, Hispanic women were most likely to be unaware of the warning signs of a stroke with 25 percent who were unaware of any of them compared to 18 percent of white women and 19 percent of black women.

Although they did not know the warning signs, 84 percent of women did know it was vital to call 9-1-1 if they believed they were having a stroke.

“This lack of recognition of stroke signs and symptoms could be a significant barrier to reducing death and disability related to stroke in the United States,” said Lori Mosca, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., principal investigator of the study. “This is critically important because delays in getting care costs lives and hinders functional recovery.”

Affecting more women than men, strokes are the fourth-leading overall cause of death in the United States and the third leading cause of death among women. Stroke is the primary cause of long-term disability among those who survive. Risk for stroke is the greatest among minority racial groups including black and Hispanic.

This survey was conducted in 2012 by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a component of a study regarding heart and stroke awareness among women. Participants in the survey were English-speaking women in the United States who were 25 years or older at the time of the study. Over 50 percent of the women were white, 17 percent were black, 17 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were other races or ethnicities.

The national campaign led by the association designed the following acronym F.A.S.T. to urge people to spot and respond to a stroke.

• Face drooping
• Arm weakness
• Speech difficulty
• Time to call 9-1-1

“It’s so important to recognize a stroke and get quick treatment,” said Mosca, a professor of medicine and director of Preventive Cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in New York. “Public awareness campaigns such as F.A.S.T., along with education from healthcare providers, can help raise that awareness.”

Co-authors are Heidi Mochari-Greenberger, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., and Amytis Towfighi, M.D.

This study was funded in part by a National Institutes of Health career award to Dr. Mosca and was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.