When blood cannot flow properly to the brain, brain cells die, and this is called a stroke. Many signs and symptoms are the same for men and women, though some occur more often in men.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. They are more common and more likely to be fatal in women, while men tend to have strokes at a younger age.
Being aware of all symptoms, including those specific to sex, can help a person to seek lifesaving medical attention for a loved one.
In this article, we look at the early warning signs of a stroke and symptoms men are more likely to experience. We also describe the recovery process.
Authors of a study published in 2009 investigated differences in how strokes affected men and women.
They found that the most common symptoms in men were:
- difficulty maintaining balance, also called poor coordination
- weakness on one side of the body
- numbness on one side of the body
Women were more likely to report "nontraditional" symptoms, such as lightheadedness, headaches, and a change in mental status, such as confusion. Men can also exhibit these symptoms.
However, because men tend to exhibit better-known symptoms, bystanders and medical personnel may recognize strokes more quickly in men, reducing the time between the stroke and treatment.
An ischemic stroke is the most common type. It involves a piece of plaque or a blood clot blocking an artery in the brain.
Hemorrhagic strokes are less common, and they involve bleeding in the brain.
A person may experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or a "mini-stroke." These may feature short-term, stroke-like symptoms, and they can serve as a warning sign for a stroke.
The acronym FAST can help a person to remember the most common symptoms of a stroke, which are:
- Face drooping. A stroke can cause numbness or weakness on one side of the face. When a person with this symptom tries to smile, only one side of the mouth may respond.
- Arm weakness. A person having a TIA or stroke may be unable to raise one or both arms above the head and keep them there.
- Speech difficulty. A person may have difficulty speaking, or their words may not make sense.
- Time. If a person has any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance. A stroke is a medical emergency, and receiving urgent treatment can prevent further injury to the brain.
Other symptoms of a stroke include:
- feeling faint
A person having a stroke may show several symptoms or only one, such as one-sided weakness.
A stroke cuts off blood flow to the brain, depriving brain cells of oxygen and nutrients. If a person does not get medical attention quickly, they are at risk of permanent brain damage or death.
Results of a 2005 study suggest that men who have had strokes may leave the hospital with fewer disabilities than women. In the aftermath of a stroke, men also tended to have higher rates of daily activity.
This may be because men tend to be younger than women when they have strokes. As a result, their bodies may be better able to recover.
Recovery after a stroke depends on many factors. These include:
- the area of the brain affected by the stroke
- the amount of time that oxygen and blood were blocked
- a person's overall health before the stroke
Some people fully recover from a stroke and experience no lasting effects. Others require long-term physical therapy and medications. These may:
If a person suspects that anyone is having a stroke, they should contact emergency services immediately. People in the U.S. should dial 911.
Identifying and quickly treating a stroke reduces the risk of brain damage or death. Within 3 hours of the onset of a stroke, a doctor can administer a clot-busting medication.
However, a person who suspects that they are having a stroke should not drive.
A stroke is severe, regardless of a person's sex. Men with warning signs such as high blood pressure and a history of smoking have an increased risk.
However, the causes of a stroke can usually be prevented. A person can significantly reduce their risk by avoiding smoking and drinking alcohol, and maintaining an active lifestyle and healthful diet.
Understanding and remembering the FAST acronym can help with recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and ensuring that the person receives urgent treatment.
The sooner a person receives treatment, the more likely they are to recover.