Males and females experience the same main symptoms of stroke. However, females may be more likely to experience additional symptoms, such as confusion, general fatigue, and more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for females in the United States, affecting 1 in 5 American females between the ages of 55 and 75.

The American Heart Association (AMA) estimates that 60% of stroke deaths occur in females.

This article covers the symptoms of stroke in females. It also looks at the warning signs of stroke in females and the next steps to take if a stroke occurs.

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An illustration by Antonio Jimenez

The main symptoms of a stroke are the same across the sexes.

People can use the acronym BE FAST to remember the symptoms, which include:

  • B — balance: Stroke can affect a person’s balance and coordination.
  • E — eyes: Stroke can affect a person’s vision, resulting in sudden blurred vision, sudden double vision, and sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • F — face drooping: If someone thinks that they or someone they know is having a stroke, they should look for signs of drooping in the face. When smiling, if one side of the face is drooping, it could be a sign of a stroke.
  • A — arm weakness: People experiencing a stroke may be unable to hold their arms up above their heads due to weakness or numbness. If one arm drifts downward, it may be a sign that they are having a stroke.
  • S — speech difficulties: People having a stroke are also likely to slur their words. Ask them to say a simple sentence; if they slur, it could be a stroke.
  • T — time: If the above symptoms are present, it is time to call the emergency services.

People can also experience sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body and a sudden, severe headache.

However, females may experience additional symptoms, such as:

  • general weakness that affects both sides of the body
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • disorientation
  • confusion
  • memory problems

A mini stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA) is a warning sign that a person may experience a stroke. These strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is blocked temporarily.

According to the American Stroke Association, around one-third of people who have a mini-stroke go on to have a more severe stroke within 1 year.

These strokes typically only last a few minutes before the person experiencing it returns to normal, but can sometimes last several hours.

Symptoms may include:

  • speech and visual disturbances
  • numbness or weakness in the face
  • weakness in the arms
  • weakness in the legs
  • severe headache that appears to have no obvious cause

People experiencing a mini-stroke should seek immediate medical attention, as this can be a warning sign that a full stroke may occur.

Even if the symptoms subside while a person is waiting for the ambulance, they should still be assessed by a medical professional.

In a silent stroke, there may be no symptoms. The AHA estimates these impact 8–11 million Americans yearly.

Silent strokes may cause subtle differences in a person’s movement and mental processing.

Doctors usually discover that someone has had a silent stroke through incidental scans. This means that doctors ordered a brain scan for unrelated reasons and noticed white spots on the scans. These white spots indicate scarring.

Silent strokes are also linked to future risk for stroke and dementia.

It is more common for females to have vague or atypical symptoms of stroke.

The symptoms of stroke in females may begin with fatigue, confusion, or general weakness that affects both sides of the body instead of one side.

The AHA notes that the signs of stroke in females can be subtle enough that they get missed, and many may explain away any stroke symptoms that they may experience.

They may ignore a sudden headache if they are prone to headaches, and they may disregard brain fog or general exhaustion as stress.

People should take note of any sudden changes they experience, or changes to body function that is not usual to them.

If someone is having a stroke, it is essential to call emergency services as soon as possible.

Most treatments for stroke are only effective if administered within 3 hours of the onset, which is why it is so important to get medical attention immediately.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends calling emergency services rather than driving to the hospital.

If a person drives themselves to the emergency room, they may have to wait in triage, which can take many hours. However, if they arrive in an ambulance, the emergency services personnel can call ahead to ensure treatment is prompt on arrival.

Emergency service personnel can also begin administering stroke treatment in the ambulance, meaning the treatment starts sooner.

Additionally, an ambulance can take a person directly to a specialized stroke center, which means they will likely receive the best treatment available.

More stroke deaths occur in females. This may be because the symptoms of stroke in females can be more vague and many people may explain away their symptoms, attributing them to stress and other causes.

As a result, they may not receive treatment in time.

The main symptoms of stroke are the same across the sexes. However, females can also experience:

  • fatigue
  • general weakness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • confusion, disorientation, and memory problems

If a person experiences any signs of a stroke, they should contact the emergency services immediately.