Science and Tech


Only Half Of U.S. Women Can Spot Stroke Symptoms

A new study found only half of American women can spot bodily weakness as a sign of a stroke. Even fewer recognize other symptoms.
Posted at 1:01 PM, Mar 20, 2014

Almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year, but according to a recent report, only about half of women can spot the symptoms of one.

The study — published in the journal Stroke — surveyed more than 1,200 women about their knowledge of stroke symptoms. According to the results, 51 percent knew a stroke can cause weakness on one side of the body, 44 percent identified speech impairment as a symptom, and only 18 percent acknowledged loss of vision as a symptom.

That makes 1 in 5 women who can't identify a single symptom of a stroke, even though it affects about 55,000 more women than men each year.

But a large majority of the respondents said they knew to immediately call 911 if they were to experience a stroke. According to the study's lead researcher from Columbia University, "This lack of recognition of stroke signs and symptoms could be a significant barrier to reducing death and disability related to stroke." (Via The Huffington Post)

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by either a blood clot or broken blood vessel — resulting in bodily impairments, paralysis or even death, depending on the severity of the stroke. (Via National Stroke Foundation)

The American Heart Association's "FAST" acronym is a way to remember common signs of a stroke. That's F-A-S-T — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.

Stroke specialists say acting quickly at the onset of a stroke is crucial, and even though the FAST acronym identifies the common signs, it's important to recognize all the signs since they're different for each person.

A neurologist who was not a part of the study tells NPR men might be just as confused about stroke symptoms as women are. He says to be safe, "If there is an abrupt change neurologically, ... that could be a stroke and that needs to be taken seriously."

The study comes amid new prevention guidelines for women last month. According to USA Today, there are risks unique to women that could increase their stroke risk, such as taking birth control pills or pregnancy.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130,000 Americans die each year from strokes.