A stroke, or medically referred to as a Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA), is the third leading cause of death among women in the United States. It is usually caused when a thrombus, or blood clot, breaks off from another area of the body and travels to the brain, where it cuts off blood supply. Since blood is what carries oxygen, that means a certain part of the brain is without oxygen. That could lead to death, significant mental impairment, speech difficulties, paralysis, inability to walk, feed oneself, and may cause someone to completely lose independence and become incontinent of stool and urine. Needless to say, that’s not a pretty picture.
However, it’s happening all too frequently, and some of the reasons are that risk factors are increasing, but so is a national knowledge deficit about the risks and warning signs of a stroke. Being obese, inactive, a smoker, on hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills, being pregnant, having high blood pressure, having lupus, or having a heart condition called atrial fibrillation places one at risk for stroke. But when polled, only 11 percent of women could correctly identify the risk factors. This is important because if you are at risk, it’s even more imperative that you know the signs and symptoms of stroke.
Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, a neurologist and director of neuroscience critical care at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, says that the relative lack of knowledge regarding stroke and stroke symptoms is very concerning for American women.
“I think we have a ways to go when it comes to educating women about stroke and their unique risk. Things like pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy and even something as trivial as a case of the hiccups can all play an important role when it comes to strokes in women, and we need to be more aware of it.”
Yes, that’s right — having a prolonged case of hiccups may be a warning sign of a stroke. Other signs include headache, confusion or loss of consciousness, numbness or tingling or inability to move one side of the body, a facial droop, impaired vision, or inability to articulate words or understand words.
If any of these signs are encountered, it is imperative to call 911 right away, as there is a time period that medications can be given to dissolve the blood clot and return function to those areas of the body affected. But after that time period, the damage is likely permanent. That’s why it’s so important to know the signs and seek help immediately if you or anyone you know experiences them.
[photo courtesy of thewonderforest]