Majority of American women aren’t aware of stroke risk factors, survey suggests

Stroke is the third leading cause of death for American women, but a survey conducted by Ohio State University researchers suggests only a fraction of women know the top risk factors for the condition.

The survey questioned 1,000 women and found that only 11 percent could identify pregnancy, lupus, migraine headaches, oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy as female-specific stroke risks, according to a news release. Only 10 percent of those women surveyed knew that hiccups combined with atypical chest pain is a warning sign of stroke when combined with or followed by other common stroke symptoms.

Among those women surveyed, only half were familiar with the consequences of stroke, which include nerve damage, problems swallowing and depression.

“I think we have a ways to go when it comes to educating women about stroke and their unique risk factors,” Dr. Diana Greene-Chandos, a neurologist and director of neuroscience critical care at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, said in the news release.

Researchers pointed out that many women think stroke is a man’s disease, but men and women actually share some stroke risk factors, like not exercising or having a blood pressure higher than 140 over 90. Diabetics who have a hemoglobin A1C of more than 7, or those who aren’t diabetic and have a hemoglobin A1C of 5.7, are also at a higher risk of having a stroke. Men and women who have a LDL cholesterol of less than 100 without other stroke— and less than 70 with additional risks, namely diabetes— also have a greater risk of having a stroke.

Compared to men, women can have more headaches with their strokes, said Greene-Chandos. “They actually can have hiccups with a little bit of chest pain with their stroke symptoms, sometimes sending them down the pathway of looking for either heart disease or indigestion,” she added.

Greene-Chandos pointed out that getting help at the first sign of a stroke is crucial. Within three hours of a stroke onset, patients can receive a clot-busting drug.

According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, each year, about 795,000 Americans suffer new or recurrent stroke, and more than 137,000 people die from stroke. Sixty percent of stroke deaths occur in females, while the other 40 percent occur in males.