When blood cannot flow correctly to the brain, brain cells die. This is called a stroke. Many signs and symptoms are the same for males and females, though some occur more often in males.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a stroke is the leading cause of death in the United States. Strokes are more common and more likely to be fatal in females, while males tend to have strokes at a younger age.

Being aware of all symptoms, including those specific to males and females, can help a person to seek lifesaving medical attention for someone who may be having a stroke.

In this article, we look at the early warning signs of a stroke, and symptoms males are more likely to experience. We also describe the recovery process.

Warning signs of strokes in malesShare on Pinterest
Infographic by Cristie Wilson

There are a number of warning signs to look out for if a person is having a stroke. These include symptoms such as sudden:

  • numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
  • trouble seeing from one or both eyes
  • trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination
  • severe headache with no known cause

An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. 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 “ministroke.” These may cause short-term, stroke-like symptoms, and they can serve as a warning sign for a stroke.

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.

If a person suspects that someone 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 4.5 hours of the onset of a stroke, a doctor can administer a clot-busting medication.

A person who suspects that they are having a stroke should not drive.

The acronym FAST can help a person to remember the most common symptoms and signs of a stroke, which are:

  • Face drooping (F): 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 their mouth may respond.
  • Arm weakness (A): A person having a TIA or stroke may be unable to raise one or both arms above their head and keep them there.
  • Speech difficulty (S): A person may have difficulty speaking, or their words may not make sense.
  • Time (T): If a person has any of the above symptoms, seek immediate medical assistance. A stroke is a medical emergency, and receiving urgent treatment can help prevent further injury to the brain.

A person having a stroke may show several symptoms or only one, such as one-sided weakness.

Other symptoms of a stroke include:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • pain
  • feeling faint

Females are more likely to report “nontraditional” symptoms such as lightheadedness, headache, and a change in mental status, such as confusion. Males can also exhibit these symptoms.

However, because males tend to exhibit better-known symptoms, bystanders and medical personnel may recognize strokes more quickly in males, reducing the time between the stroke and treatment.

Visit our dedicated hub for more information on male health.

There are significant differences in the rehabilitation and discharge of people who had a stroke. These differences may suggest that doctors need to consider the sex and age of a person in care planning.

One study found that doctors were more likely to discharge males than females. Males were also more likely to not require home care after discharge.

This may be because males tend to be younger than females 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 not flowing correctly
  • 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 medications may:

A stroke can affect anyone, but there are some things that increase a person’s risk of a stroke. It is important to know what the risk factors are so that people can do certain things to help reduce the risk. These include:

  • Age: The older a person is, the narrower and harder their arteries are likely to be. This can cause atherosclerosis, where the arteries become clogged.
  • Medical conditions: Certain conditions increase the risk of stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
  • Lifestyle factors: Certain behaviors such as smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and not eating a balanced diet can damage blood vessels.
  • Family history: If a first-degree relative has had a stroke, a person’s risk is likely to be higher.

Pregnancy and the use of birth control pills can pose stroke risks for females.

A person should speak with their healthcare professional if they have close relatives who have had a stroke or heart attack, as some types of high cholesterol can run in families.

A stroke is severe, regardless of a person’s sex. Males with risk factors such as high blood pressure and a history of smoking have an increased risk.

However, the causes of a stroke can sometimes be prevented. A person can significantly reduce their risk by avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, having an active lifestyle, and eating a balanced, nutritious 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.