Women No. 1 in stroke

Throughout the years, women have struggled for the right to an education, equality and the freedom to use their minds. Now they are not only equal, but have surpassed men in another area—stroke. Each year, about 40,000 more women than men have a stroke, and in 2001, 61.4 percent of fatal stroke victims were women. Though women have fought to further their position in society, they are unaware that all they have gained can be snatched away in an instant.

Today, women are more health savvy than ever and may think that they are not at high risk for stroke in comparison to other “women’s diseases” such as breast or ovarian cancer. But stroke’s No. 3 ranking falls just behind diseases of the heart and ALL cancers combined. If these facts don’t convince women to take action, perhaps these will:

42 percent of people in the U.S. can’t recognize one warning sign of stroke.

$104,048 is the mean lifetime cost of care for you or a loved one who survives an ischemic (clot-caused) stroke.

539,000 women are discharged from U.S. hospitals after suffering a stroke.

75 and older is the age when most strokes in women occur. What birthday did your mother just celebrate? Your grandmother, great aunt, you?

Women can take steps to prevent the devastating effects of a stroke in their own life or their loved ones’ lives. The first step is to become aware. Know the warning signs of a stroke.

“The warning signs of stroke are not always obvious,” said Kathleen Elliott, president of the American Heart Associations Winnebago County Board of Directors. “People need to take time to learn the warning signs so they or someone they know can recognize if they are having a stroke. The warning signs are: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; and sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If any of these signs appear, call 9-1-1 immediately. Treat stroke like the emergency it is, because time lost is brain lost.

Second, recognize and reduce your risk. Some stroke risk factors can’t be changed. Having a family history of stroke, gender and increasing age are examples. But many risks can be controlled. High blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, high cholesterol levels and excessive drinking are all risk factors that can be altered to reduce your risk of having a stroke.

Finally, share this information with a friend or loved one. May was American Stroke Month. An e-card listing the five warning signs of stroke is available to send to your mother, or anyone you know. Show them how much you care about them and their life. Log on to strokeassociation.org, send your card and learn more about stroke, or call 1-888-4-STROKE.

Some simple steps you can take to prevent stroke and increase awareness:

Get your blood pressure checked. If it’s high, 140/90 mm Hg or higher, control it.

Quit smoking, especially if you are pregnant or on birth control pills.

Start physical activity. Try to work up to accumulating 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week.

Log on to americanheart.org to find heart-healthy programs and tools such as Simple Solutions, a program designed to help women incorporate healthy changes into their life one step at a time.

Take one minute to learn the warning signs of stroke.

Send an e-card to a friend, sharing warning signs.

Write to your senator or representative to support the STOP Stroke Act, which would authorize a grant program to help states have access to quality stroke prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services.

From the March 30-April 5, 2005 issue

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