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Stroke & Women

Also called: Women and Stroke

- Summary
- About women and strokes
- Types and differences
- Risk factors
- Signs and symptoms
- Treatment and prevention
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Dongwoo John Chang, M.D.


A stroke is a potentially life-threatening event in which part of the brain is deprived of adequate oxygen. It is the third-leading cause of death (after heart disease and cancer) among all women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many women who survive a stroke may face permanent losses of movement, speech, clear thinking and other abilities.

There are two primary types of strokes that affect both women and men. Ischemic strokes result from blockages in arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes result from a bursting of an artery in the brain.


Women are also vulnerable to a type of stroke related to a condition called fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), in which ongoing destruction of arterial blood vessels triggers a stroke.

Women and men share many of the same risk factors for stroke. However, research has also identified certain risk factors associated specifically with women, including loss of estrogen following menopause, pregnancy, antiphospholipid syndrome (blood clotting condition that causes miscarriages) and use of birth control pills.

Women and men also share many of the same symptoms of stroke. However, there are several symptoms that may be unique in women experiencing strokes, according to the National Stroke Association. They include face and limb pain, hiccups, weakness, palpitations, nausea and shortness of breath. 

Because the physiology of men’s and women’s bodies varies greatly, many experts believe that treatment and prevention methods are likely to affect the genders in different ways. However, to date there has been little research into these differences. For now, treatments remain similar for both men and women.

Stroke is one of the most preventable neurological disorders. Many strokes can be prevented by not smoking and controlling weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and other risk factors. One of the best ways for women to prevent a stroke is to learn about these risk factors and to make healthy lifestyle changes accordingly.

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Review Date: 05-21-2007

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