Stroke can cause similar symptoms in females and males, including a drooping face, arm weakness, and slurred or challenged speech. However, females may be more likely to experience more subtle symptoms.
Understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and signs can help improve a person’s outcome. This article reviews the symptoms of stroke in females, other common symptoms, and what to expect from recovery.
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.
According to the
Females may have a higher chance of experiencing vague symptoms, such as fatigue and general weakness, instead of weakness on one side of the body. They may also be more likely to attribute stroke symptoms to stress.
According to the
- trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- weakness or numbness in the arm, face, or leg, often only on one side of the body
- difficulty walking, loss of balance, lack of coordination, or dizziness
- severe headache with no known cause
- confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech
About 1 in 5 females ages 55–75 years will experience a stroke, reports the
Certain risk factors put different groups of people at a higher risk of stroke.
The main risk factor for stroke in females is high blood pressure, also called hypertension. Around 2 in 5 females have high blood pressure, according to the CDC.
Other stroke risk factors in females include:
- having depression
- having high blood pressure during pregnancy
- using certain oral birth control medications, especially if they also smoke
Females are also more likely to live longer than males, and the risk of stroke increases with age. This means more females typically have a stroke than males.
Females also have some additional unique risk factors. These
- a lifetime of exposure to the hormone estrogen
- use of hormone replacement therapies for menopause
- not ever breastfeeding
- pregnancy issues, such as preterm delivery and preeclampsia
FAST is an acronym that health organizations and healthcare professionals use to help people recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke.
- F – Face: One side of the face droops or does not respond when a person smiles.
- A – Arms: One arm drifts downward or does not raise fully when a person raises their arms above their head.
- S – Speech: A person’s words become slurred or harder to understand.
- T – Time: If any of these symptoms occur, a person should call 911 immediately and note the time when symptoms first began. This can help healthcare professionals determine the best course of treatment.
Stroke treatment is time sensitive. The sooner treatment starts, the better the outcome for the person.
Treatment can often start in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The
Treatment in females vs. males
According to a
Researchers further note that a person’s sociocultural gender roles also contribute to differences in risks, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes.
- Endovascular thrombectomy: This procedure uses an image-guided instrument to remove a blot clot or blockage.
- Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA): This intravenous (IV) medication is used to treat clots.
Both treatments help restore blood flow to the brain following an ischemic stroke.
The 2022 study mentioned above suggests females have a higher chance of receiving an endovascular thrombectomy than males. Researchers also noted that evidence suggests females have a 13% lower chance of receiving tPA.
Researchers suggest this discrepancy may have implications for why females have a worse outcome than males after a stroke, as tPA is generally effective for females and males.
One possible issue is a delay in seeking emergency help.
Treatment with tPA is time dependent. Treatment must occur within
Hemorrhagic stroke has fewer treatment options for females and males.
Researchers state that treatments typically involve:
- managing blood pressure in the brain
- reversing anticoagulant-associated hemorrhage
A stroke blocks oxygenated blood from reaching the brain. Brain cells die off quickly when they do not receive oxygen and blood.
Following the initial treatment to restore blood flow, many people require rehabilitation therapy to restore or maintain typical functions. This can include physical, occupational, speech, and other types of therapy.
The goals of rehabilitation typically
- regaining independence
- relearning lost or impaired skills and abilities
- learning to cope with any lingering limitations
Some people may opt not to use a rehabilitation program and instead choose hospice care or assisted living facilities.
A person cannot change all risk factors, such as age. But they can take steps to change modifiable risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
The CDC notes that
A person can consider the following to reduce their risk of stroke:
- using aspirin to help reduce the risk of blood clots (before taking aspirin, a person needs clearance from a qualified healthcare professional)
- managing high blood pressure with lifestyle strategies and medication
- quitting smoking, if applicable
- managing cholesterol with lifestyle strategies and medication
- getting regular exercise throughout the week
- eating heart-healthy meals that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins
- limiting saturated fat, salt, and processed foods
- managing other health conditions, such as diabetes
- attending regular health checkups with a doctor
People can talk with a healthcare professional about the risks of stroke and how they can reduce them.
The following section answers some frequently asked questions about stroke in females.
What does a stroke feel like for a woman?
Females have a higher chance of experiencing subtle or less common stroke symptoms than males. Some symptoms females may experience with a stroke
- numbness or weakness in the arm, leg, or face, often on one side of the body
- trouble walking or balance issues
- speech issues
- severe headache
- difficulty seeing
What are the warning signs of a stroke days before?
Stroke symptoms start suddenly. They do not come on gradually over a few days. This is due to the rapid death of brain cells associated with limited blood supply.
However, some people experience a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a ministroke. TIA causes stroke-like symptoms that typically last only a few minutes. TIAs are often indicators a stroke may be coming.
According to the
Stroke symptoms in females may go unreported, delaying effective early treatment. This may be due to females experiencing more subtle symptoms, associating them with other issues, such as stress, or calling a primary doctor instead of 911.
Symptoms in females can include well-recognized symptoms, such as a drooping face, slurred speech, and weakness in one arm. Symptoms in females can also include fatigue, a general feeling of being unwell, vision issues, headache, or dizziness.
One common theme is the sudden onset of symptoms. A person should call 911 if they experience any sudden symptoms, even if they are unsure they fit the definition of stroke.