Last month was National Stroke Month (May), and this reminds us that this medical emergency can be more common and severe depending on gender, age, and a number of other unique factors. In fact, women are 60% more susceptible to stroke deaths. Dr. Efrain Salgado, a neurologist and stroke specialist at the Cleveland clinic in Weston, Florida, answers our questions:
- Are Hispanic women susceptible for a stroke? What are some unique factors?
Not only Hispanic women, but all women are susceptible to stroke. The most important risk factor for stroke is age and since women live longer they are at higher risk of developing a stroke as compared to men. More women die from stroke than do men and more women die from stroke than from breast cancer.
Stroke accounts for 10% of maternal deaths during pregnancy or the period around delivery. Under the age of 45 more women die of stroke than from heart attack. Atrial fibrillation (a type of irregularity of the heart rhythm) is an important risk factor for stroke in women over the age of 75. Hispanic-Americans between the ages of 45 and 59 are approximately 1 ½ times more likely to die from stroke than non-Hispanic whites. Sixty-percent of patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (a type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain caused by rupture of a brain aneurysm) are women.
- What are some commonly known risk factors in women and/or Hispanic women?
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, atrial fibrillation, brain aneurysm, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, the use of some illicit drugs, the use of birth control pills in combination with smoking and suffering from migraine with aura, and pregnancy.
- What are the early signs and when should you consult a doctor?
It is important to remember that stroke symptoms occur SUDDENLY. These include the ones listed below:
BE FAST is a good mnemonic to remember:
B= Balance- loss of balance
E= Eyes- loss of vision in one or both eyes
F= Face- weakness of one side of the face
A= Arm- weakness or numbness of the arm or one entire side of the body
S= Speech= Speech difficulty or sudden severe headache of no known cause
T= Time to call 911 so you can be taken to the nearest emergency room that can treat you
promptly if you develop any of the above sudden symptoms
In addition, women in particular can display other SUDDEN symptoms that may be indicative of a stroke including:
- Generalized weakness
- Nausea or vomiting
- Share some preventative measures women can take to reduce the risk
- Treat high blood pressure
- Control diabetes
- Lower cholesterol
- Do not smoke
- Do not use illicit drugs
- Do not drink excessive amounts of alcohol
- If you use birth control pills, do not smoke, and avoid them if you have migraine with aura (aura are typically visual symptoms such as flashing lights and blind spots in your vision that can occur in conjunction with a migraine headache)
- Lose weight if obese
- Treat obstructive sleep apnea
- Engage in aerobic exercise on a regular basis, at least 30 minutes every day, 5 days per week
- Get regular check-ups with your primary care physician to monitor for all of the above and to check your heart rhythm for atrial fibrillation
- Adopt healthy eating habits such as the DASH and Mediterranean diets to reduce cardiovascular disease (stroke and heart attack) risk.