It’s a common misconception that the signs of stroke are obvious. You may think that it’s as simple as numbness in your face or a tight chest but in reality symptoms of a stroke are varied, and can actually change depending on whether you’re male or female.
And further to that, most strokes are painless and don’t hurt, which can lead to longer recovery time, and in some cases, death.
Most strokes are caused by a blocked blood vessel in the brain.
The most common warning signs this has happened are covered by an acronym everyone should know: FAST.
F is for Face – a facial droop, or other asymmetry such as a crooked smile.
A is for arms – Someone who can’t lift their arm up, or grip their hand, or use their arm as they normally would.
S is for speech – Speech may be slurred, incomprehensible. The person having a stroke may not understand what is said to them.
T is for time – Call triple-0 urgently because the earlier the person gets to hospital, the better their outcome. This is especially the case if you live outside a big city.
Something else to note is that you shouldn’t ring a family member first if you suspect a stroke – call the ambulance straight away.
Also, don’t be tempted to drive or be driven as this could slow down your ability to be treated quickly.
Women may report symptoms that are different from the common symptoms. They can include:
These symptoms can create a problem, as they are often not recognised as stroke symptoms and treatment is often delayed.
So how can you prevent a stroke?
1 in 6 Australians will have a stroke, and it can occur any time during your life, although it is more common after 45 and twice as likely if you’re a woman. Contrary to popular belief, a stroke is not a heart attack, but some strokes are fatal like heart attacks.
With that said, it is important to understand your risks and how to prevent a stroke:
1. Walk 20 minutes a day
Yep! It’s really that simple. Even if you break it up into two 10-minute sessions, it’s worth it: walking a total of 2 hours a week can cut your stroke risk by 30%, according to a large study of nearly 40,000 women, conducted over a 12-year period.
2. Get treated for depression if you have it
Having depression makes you 29 per cent more likely to suffer from stroke, says a new study of more than 80,000 women.
3. Sleep for at least 7 hours
It may seem impossible to some but it really is important to have at least 7 hours sleep to dramatically reduce your risk. Any more than 10 hours and you could actually increase your risk by 63 per cent.
4. Don’t dismiss heart palpitations
Even if you have anxiety and are prone to panic attacks, do not dismiss a heart flutter accompanied by chest pain and lightheadedness.
5. Think FAST
Most women don’t: surveys show less than 30 per cent of females can name more than two symptoms of a stroke. F (face) A (arm & leg) S (speech) T (time)!