Why symptoms are different
PR Image Factory/Shutterstock If you’re at risk for a stroke, one acronym could save your life: FAST, developed by the American Stroke Association (ASA), which stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911. But these aren’t the only or even most obvious stroke symptoms in women, says Cheryl Bushnell, MD, professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “We have no idea why the stroke symptoms might be different for women. We need research on this topic.” Women also have unique risk factors—their hormones can play a role—making stroke the third leading cause of death in women.
Fainting or seizures
Nutlegal Photographer/Shutterstock You might be tempted to minimize a fainting spell, but it could be a stroke: Women tend to suffer strokes to the back of the brain more often than men, says Diana Greene-Chandos MD, FNCS, assistant professor of neurosurgery and neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Known as posterior circulation strokes, they cut off “blood flow to the occipital lobes, brainstem, cerebellum, and part of the temporal lobe. The top of the brainstem is where the consciousness center lies,” Dr. Greene-Chandos says, and cutting blood flow to this part of the brain can lead to fainting. She notes, however, that fainting “could also be related to a hyperventilation response to any type of stroke, as a fear response,” and that seizures, another of the stroke symptoms in women, can also be confused with a loss of consciousness. Make sure you know these seven signs of stroke you might be ignoring.