Image of heart and stethoscope

Image courtesy of Walter Groesel, stock.xchg

The National Stroke Association’s website is chock-full of statistics about women and strokes. For instance,

  • More than twice as many women die of stroke than breast cancer
  • 425,000 women suffer from stroke each year compared to 55,000 men
  • Only 27 percent of women could name more than two of the six primary stroke symptoms

That second one took me by surprise. I knew women were more likely to have strokes than men, but I had no idea the divide was so large. And, I admit, I’m not sure I can name more than two symptoms of stroke. Two I’m certain of—numbness and tingling and slurred speech—but the others that come to mind are really only guesses.

How can one reduce the risk of stroke?

  • Take up walking. Walking only three hours a week can reduce risk of stroke by 43 percent. This is huge.
  • Make good dietary choices. Diets high in olive oil and potassium-rich foods can lower risk 20 percent. Potassium power foods include bananas, orange juice, potatoes—both white and sweet, white beans, and fat free yogurt.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Keep cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels.
  • Lower stress and control anger. These can cause thickening of the neck arteries, which can lead to stroke.

What are the risk factors that are specific to women?

  • Taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Having a waist size larger than 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level higher than 128 mg/liter
  • Being a migraine sufferer

What are the symptoms we should look for?

Here’s where thinking fast can save you. Use the acronym FAST to help you remember:

F stands for face. Look for numbness or an uneven smile

A is for arms and legs. They can become numb or even paralyzed

S is for speech, which can be slurred or confusing

T stands for time, which you lack if you are having a stroke. Call 911 immediately if you suspect stroke.

Curious about your personal risk for stroke? Measure your score using this National Stroke Association’s scorecard .