CDC Recognizes Women and Stroke for World Stroke DayPosted on by
As a woman, I am particularly interested in this year’s World Stroke Day focus. I am a woman and stroke can affect me, my family members, my patients’ families and women around the world.
Worldwide, there are 15 million strokes each year, 10 million of which will end in death or permanent disability. Women have more strokes than men, and are more likely to die from stroke than men. In the United States each year, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer.
Many women do not know they are at risk for stroke or how to reduce their risk. Some risk factors, like family history, age, gender, and ethnicity, cannot be changed or controlled. Others can. Medical conditions—including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes, or obesity—can increase your chances of having a stroke. Avoiding smoking and drinking too much alcohol, getting regular exercise, and eating heart-healthy, low-salt foods are all actions you can take to reduce your stroke risk. Eating foods high in salt, or sodium, can increase blood pressure in some people. Women also have unique risk factors for stroke, including having high blood pressure during pregnancy and taking certain types of birth control pills.
But, you don’t have to take my word for it. Take a moment to read about Blanche’s stroke experience, which she describes as an unexpected “wake-up call.”
A smoker for 40 years, Blanche knew her habit was unhealthy. But she had no idea how it would eventually affect her health.When Blanche almost fell down one morning after getting out of bed, she blamed her dizziness on vertigo, a condition that makes you feel dizzy or lightheaded. But when she tried to turn on the light, her arm felt like dead weight. So she rested a short while until she felt better. Then she took a shower and drove to work. She had no idea she had suffered a mild stroke.
When she arrived at work, a coworker noticed that Blanche was not walking straight. When Blanche spoke, she felt as if she had to push the words out of her mouth.
Blanche was lucky: When she got to the hospital, she was diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack, often called a “mini-stroke.” Unlike major strokes, mini-strokes don’t cause permanent injury to the brain. But mini-strokes can lead to a major stroke.
Blanche’s mini-stroke was a wake-up call. Two weeks after her mini-stroke, Blanche quit smoking for good. Like many African American women, Blanche also had high blood pressure. She now takes medicine to control her blood pressure and walks her dog every day to stay active. She sees her doctor regularly and works to keep her weight down.
Blanche always talks to her friends and family about how to reduce their chances of having a stroke and how to recognize if someone is having a stroke. She has learned so much about how to prevent stroke, and she likes to spread the word to others about the importance of going to the doctor and quitting smoking.
To reduce stroke among women worldwide, we need to work together to raise awareness of this important public health problem in the United States and worldwide. Do you know someone like Blanche who could use help to reduce their risk for stroke? World Stroke Day is the perfect opportunity to reach out and share information about the signs and symptoms of stroke.
On October 29, join me in taking the time to educate the women in your life about their risk for stroke, ways to reduce that risk, and what to do if you think you or someone else may be having a stroke. Share some of the following CDC resources on your website, blog, and social media pages.
Stroke affects some groups of people differently than others. These CDC fact sheets provide tailored stroke information for women, men, African Americans, and Hispanics. Each fact sheet includes personal stories from stroke survivors—like Blanche—that vividly highlight stroke risk factors, signs and symptoms, and outcomes.
These infographics provide quick information about how stroke affects women. Each can be downloaded and easily posted to social media. Both English or Spanish language versions are available.
You can make a difference for yourself and others. Take action now to decrease your chances of ever having a stroke and taking the right steps at first signs of a stroke. Share this information, take steps to make change and let’s all work together to prevent stroke complications and death for those we love at home and worldwide.