Not Just an Old-Woman Worry

What you must know now to protect yourself from a stroke

To Your Health

Not Just an Old-Woman Worry

What you must know now to protect yourself from a stroke

-Myrna Blyth

StrokeMost of us tend to think of stroke as a disease that primarily affects the old. But more than a quarter million young women–between the ages of 18 and 44–have a stroke each year. The strokes are rarely fatal, but they can be disabling with a long-term impact on a woman’s ability to earn a living and care for her children–and even care for herself.

Here is what every woman should know about strokes:
• Almost 800,000 people a year are affected.
• It is the third leading cause of death.
• It is the most common cause of long-term disability.
• More women die of strokes than die of breast cancer.

Krysta Osweiler, of Manassas, Virginia, was only 27 when she had a stroke. Krysta’s husband knew something was wrong when, after she had gone to bed with a bad headache, she slept all the next day. He couldn’t wake her when he came home from work in the late afternoon. He called 911, but the EMT workers were unable to find what was wrong. Only when she was given an MRI in the hospital was her stroke detected. She was air-lifted to another hospital for treatment. It has taken months for her to recover.

Why do young women have strokes? They share some of the same risk factors as older adults, which can include being a cigarette smoker or having diabetes or high blood pressure. Dr. Steven J. Kittner, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says,
“We also believe that women who have migraines with an aura–that means seeing a pattern of light–and those who use oral contraceptive appear to be at greater risk.”

There are also some risks associated with pregnancy. Women who have pre-eclampsia and eclampsia during late pregnancy are more vulnerable. And the immediate post-partum period, especially the 14 days after delivery seems to be a time when strokes can happen.

Every woman should know the symptoms of a stroke. At a recent Conference in Washington, D.C., organized by the Goddess Fund for Stroke Research for Women and the Society for Women’s Health Research, Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer of the University of Cincinnati imparted a simple way to recognize symptoms of stroke:

Think about the word FAST.

F – Face. Does one’s face look uneven?

A – Arms. Is the person unable to keep their arms straight in front of them. Does one arm drift down?

S – Speech. Does their speech sound strange or unusual?

T – Time to call 911. If any of the above symptoms are present, get help immediately: Two million brain cells die every minute when one is having a stroke. Treating a person as quickly as possible can make all the difference in her prognosis and recovery.

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