What are the First Signs of a Stroke in a Woman?

By Dr. Pradyumna J. Oak in Centre for Neurosciences

Apr 24 , 2023 | 4 min read

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the third leading cause of death. Census show that every 1 in 5 women falls prey to stroke. However, the positive news is that it is preventable. Various factors put women at risk. A majority of these risk factors are preventable and treatable.

This article will help the readers understand what stroke is, why women are at high risk, identify risk factors, and tips to prevent it.

What is a stroke?

A brain attack or a stroke is when one side of the brain does not receive sufficient blood flow due to blocks or bursting of the blood vessels. Blood is the brain cells' oxygen carrier. Without oxygen, the cells in your body cannot function. When brain cells are starved of blood, they die. It is a state of medical emergency that requires immediate intervention.

Different types of stroke

Hemorrhagic stroke :

It occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. Brain haemorrhages can result from many conditions that affect the blood vessels. Factors related to hemorrhagic stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Overtreatment with blood thinners (anticoagulants)
  • Bumps in the blood vessel walls (aneurysms)
  • Trauma 
  • Protein deposits in blood vessel walls lead to weakness in the vessel wall (cerebral amyloid angiopathy)
  • Ischemic stroke 


Ischaemic stroke:

It is the most common type of stroke. It is seen when the brain's blood vessels become narrowed or blocked. Causing severely reduced blood flow (ischemia). It can be caused by fatty deposits that build up in blood vessels or blood clots or other debris that travels through the bloodstream, most often from the heart, and lodge in the blood vessels in the brain.

Causes of stroke in a women

  • Increasing age 
  • Irregular heartbeat.
  • High blood pressure normally or during pregnancy.
  • Hormonal medication.
  • Hormone replacement therapy during menopause 
  • Smoking 
  • Obesity and diabetes.
  • Sickle cell disease.
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • Positive family history

Common signs of a stroke

During an episode of stroke, every minute can increase the damage to the brain. Acting fast is the key. If you see any of the following signs, take immediate action:

  • Weakness or numbness in the face, arm or leg. This is seen on one side of the body.
  • Difficulty in speech. Such as difficulty recalling, slurring or speech that is difficult to understand.
  • Trouble seeing through one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty in walking. Difficulty in orienting the body, loss of balance or lack of leg coordination.
  • Severe and sudden headaches without a cause.


Stroke is best treated when the symptoms are treated within the first three hours of seeing and identifying the symptoms. The general population needs to be aware of these signs. Stroke patients that arrive at the hospital much later may not get a cure.

Act F.A.S.T

Acting F.A.S.T is important to make sure the damage is minimal. In most cases, it can be life-saving and prevent the patient from complete paralysis.

If you suspect anyone around you is getting a stroke, these are the following things that need to be done:

  • Face: Ask the patient to smile and check for any signs where a side of the face drops
  • Arms: Ask the affected person to raise both arms and check if it drops downwards
  • Speech: Ask the affected person to speak a simple sentence. If it is slurry and disoriented, then it is worrisome.
  • Time: Call the emergency health service when you see these signs.


Note the time elapsed from the time the first symptom appeared. This helps doctors determine the type of treatment best suited. If the person is alone while experiencing these symptoms, they are advised to call for an ambulance.

If the symptoms disappear after some time, the condition is called a mini-stroke. Although it may go away, it should be taken seriously.

Clinical diagnosis of stroke in women

  • A physical examination, such as checking the blood pressure and heart rate, will be done.
  • Blood tests to check the blood sugar level and flow of clots.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan creates a detailed series of X-rays of the brain that can show clots of bleeding in the brain. Sometimes for a better view, doctors inject into the blood vessel in the neck and brain such that it is visible in the scan.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging can show damaged brain tissue.
  • Carotid ultrasound creates detailed sound waves in the neck's carotid artery. This shows fat build up and amount of blockage in the arteries. 
  • Cerebral angiogram A thin tube is passed through the arteries in the groin. It helps in better viewing of the arteries. 
  • An echocardiogram creates detailed sound waves of the heart.

How can a stroke be prevented?

  • Consume aspirin as per doctors' advice. This medicine helps in dissolving blood clots.
  • Control blood pressure by taking medications.
  • Cholesterol management with a healthy lifestyle prevents both diabetes and blood pressure in the long run.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Make lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, choosing to eat healthily, stay away from stress. Choose foods with less salt.
  • Get regular health checkups and talk to the doctor if you see any symptoms. It does not matter if it was a false alarm.


A stroke should never be taken lightly. If you see any signs, call the local emergency numbers. Don't wait for the signs to stop. Every single minute counts. The longer it goes untreated, the greater the probability of brain damage and disability.

If you are with someone who could be having a stroke, observe the person while waiting for emergency assistance. This makes it easier for doctors to decide what treatment is best suited.

Remember this: rise for tomorrow by defeating stroke today. Because losing even one woman to a stroke is one too many.