Women’s stroke risk factors

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, someone in America has a stroke every 40 seconds.

While you might know the signs of a stroke when it's happening because of the acronym BE FAST (balance loss, eyesight changes, face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 9-1-1), did you know there are other risk factors?

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes were the leading causes of this condition. However, stroke signs and risk factors can differ for men versus women.

According to the National Stroke Association, few women recognize the threat despite having 55,000 more strokes each year than men. A 2017 study in the Western Journal of Nursing Research found less than half of women have an accurate awareness of their stroke risk. In addition to the most common risk factors, characteristics of strokes distinct to women include:

A history of migraines.

Hormone replacement during menopause.

Oral contraceptive use, particularly with high blood pressure.

Physiological changes that may take place during pregnancy, such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure).

One in five women between the ages of 55 and 75 will have a stroke and about 57% of stroke deaths occur in females, according to the American Heart Association. However, there are ways to reduce risk. Harvard Medical School suggests:

Drinking alcohol in moderation. Most experts advise women to keep it under two drinks daily.

Exercising 30 minutes per day, five days per week.

Keep blood sugar in check to avoid damaged blood vessels.

Losing 10 pounds or working with a doctor to get your BMI to 25 or lower.

Lowering your blood pressure, since high blood pressure can double or quadruple stroke risk.

Quit smoking, as it increases plaque buildup in arteries.

Women-specific stroke symptoms share one characteristic with classic signs -- they occur without warning. According to the National Stroke Association, unique symptoms include:

Change in normal breathing rhythm.

Chest pain or tightness.

Hiccups.

Nausea.

Skipping or racing heartbeat.

Weakness throughout the body.

If you notice any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and note the time. Medical personnel will need to know when you first saw symptoms to determine the best treatment.

About Siloam Springs Regional Hospital

Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is a licensed 73-bed facility with private patient rooms. It is accredited by the State of Arkansas Department of Health Services and The Joint Commission. Services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, emergency medicine, medical, surgical and intensive care units, obstetrics, outpatient diagnostic services, robotic orthopedic surgery and inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation. The hospital is a baby-friendly designated birth facility and is VBAC and doula-friendly. SSRH is an affiliate of Northwest Health -- the largest health system in Northwest Arkansas. Siloam Springs Regional Hospital is located at 603 N. Progress Avenue, Siloam Springs. For more information, visit NorthwestHealth.com.