Strokes are one of the most dreaded medical conditions. They are not only a major cause of severe disability, but also the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That’s why it’s important to know the early warning signs of a stroke, particularly if you are male, over the age of 55, African American, or diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease. Any or all of these factors will put you at a higher risk, but anyone can have a stroke.
If you or someone else is experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned below, don’t take any chances – call 911 immediately.
What Are the Symptoms?
At the first warning signs of a stroke – whether you or someone else is experiencing the symptoms – it is imperative to get treatment quickly, since every second without oxygen damages the brain. These telltale symptoms include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body, either in the face, arm, or leg.
- Sudden confusion or difficulty understanding things that one normally has no problem managing.
- A sudden loss of vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Unexpected dizziness, loss of balance, or poor coordination, making it difficult to walk or grip.
- A sudden, severe headache for no apparent reason.
The reason a stroke may affect only one side of the body is because the brain controls each side from the opposite hemisphere. The left side of your body is controlled by the right side of your brain, and vice versa.
The way strokes present in women
Women experience a stroke more often than men, but the signs of a stroke in women are often harder to detect. Because women often live longer than men, more women will be living alone when they have a stroke. Women report several key differences or additional signs of a stroke in women that are distinct from the more common signs of a stroke. Women experience most common signs of a stroke, but they also report additional signs which include:
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
- Weakness throughout the body
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden behavioural changes
These types of unique female symptoms are more challenging to detect because they aren’t always noticeable as stroke symptoms.