Twenty percent of American women remain in the dark when it comes to spotting the common signs of a stroke, says a new report by Columbia University.
Strokes rank just behind heart disease and cancer when it comes to leading causes of death for females, yet a survey of more than 1,200 women revealed that one in five failed to name a single stroke symptom.
Here’s a list of the typical stroke signs, ranked in order of the number of women who could recognize them:
- Sudden weakness or numbness of face or limb on one side: 51 percent
- Loss of or trouble with talking or understanding speech: 44 percent
- Severe sudden headache: 23 percent
- Unexplained dizziness: 20 percent
- Sudden dimness, loss of vision, often in one eye: 18 percent
Thankfully, once the onset of a stroke was recognized, the majority of women said calling 9-1-1 would be their first order of business. “The data suggest that women are aware of what to do when experiencing signs of stroke, but at least half would not be able to recognize the signs should they occur,” study authors note.
According to the National Stroke Association, women in particular should also be on the lookout for more unusual stroke symptoms, including sudden:
- Face and limb pain
- General weakness
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
Quick stroke treatment may prevent permanent disability
Addressing this shocking knowledge gap is especially essential in light of the fact that “time is brain“ when it comes to stroke diagnosis and treatment.
A 2013 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study found a distinct correlation between faster treatment of ischemic stroke (caused by a blockage in the blood vessels of the brain) and better patient outcomes.
“The sooner treatment is started, the better,” says Jeffery Saver, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the UCLA Stroke Center, in a press release. “Beginning treatment earlier resulted in an improved ability to walk, the ability to remain living independently, less bleeding in the brain and reduced mortality.”
Clot-busting medication, if received within three hours of the onset of the first symptoms, can drastically reduce the chances that a person experiencing an ischemic stroke will develop a long-term disability.
Indeed, an analysis of data from nearly 1,400 hospitals found that, for each 15 minutes that was saved when seeking stroke treatment, an individual would experience a 4 percent increase in their chances for walking again, a three percent increase in their chances of going home, and a 4 percent reduction in their chances of dying or having a brain hemorrhage.
While many factors play into determining how rapidly an individual receives stroke treatment, the one element everyone can control is their ability to recognize the warning signs. To help educate people about stroke symptoms, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association developed the acronym—FAST—face-drooping, arm weakness issues, speech that is slurred or difficult, time to call 9-1-1.
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