Smart Women Missing Stroke Risks and Warning Signs


Stroke is the third leading cause of death in both men and women (right behind heart disease and cancer). It occurs equally in men and women until age 75. After age 75 women are at much greater risk for stroke than men. Stroke incidence has been increasing in women of all ages. In recent years strokes have surged in the age 45 to 54 age groups – groups usually at low risk for stroke. Why? Experts believe it’s because of an increase in risk factors that lead to stroke.

In a recent study published in the February 2009 issue of the medical journal Stroke researchers reported that 215 women, all having at least one risk factor for stroke, were unable to identify their risks. Furthermore they did not consider themselves to be at risk and were doing nothing to reduce their risk. The researchers concluded “Educational strategies must advocate for and target high-risk women.”

How the Study Participants Perceived Their Risks

The study participants were 215 women – mostly white, well-educated, earning more than $50,000/year, all having risk factors for stroke. They had minimal knowledge of their risks.

  • They were only able to identify 4 of the 11 risk factors for stroke.
  • They were only able to identify 3 out of the 6 warning signs of stroke.
  • Only 2 out of 37 women with atrial fibrillation recognized it as a risk factor for stroke.
  • Only 11 out of 71 women with heart disease recognized it as a risk factor for stroke.
  • In spite of the fact that all of these women are at increased risk for stroke most of the participants rated their risk as similar to that of other women.

11 Risk Factors for Stroke

(I’ve put links to other posts on this blog that have more details about some of these risks.)

  1. Metabolic syndrome
  2. Increased abdominal obesity
  3. Diabetes
  4. High blood pressure
  5. High cholesterol
  6. Heart disease
  7. Smoking
  8. Poor diet
  9. Atrial fibrillation
  10. History of TIA (transient ischemic attack or mini-stroke)
  11. Carotid artery stenosis

6 Warning Signs of Stroke

  1. Weakness of numbness of arms, legs, or face
  2. Vision changes
  3. Dizziness/balance problems
  4. Headache
  5. Trouble speaking
  6. Confusion

Put Your Knowledge to Work

All of the risk factors for stroke are controllable. They are controlled with your lifestyle behaviors and by working in partnership with a health professional.

Do not ignore these silent risks or fail to heed warnings. Knowing is only the first step, taking action is what will prevent a stroke. Take actions that will reduce your risks. You have so much to gain if you do and so much to lose if you do not.

Here’s a link to the full study:
Perception of Risk and Knowledge of Risk Factors in Women at High Risk for Stroke

Does reading about this study cause you to look at your own health risks differently?

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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