. This puts us as greater risk of permanent damage, as early recognition and prompt treatment is the most effective way to prevent long-term complications from a stroke.
Stroke is a major health concern for both U.S. men and women, and women appear to be at greater risk. The American Stroke Association (strokeassociation.org) reports that stroke is the third leading cause of death each year among American women and the fourth for American men (approximately 77,000 deaths for woman and 52,000 for men). Stroke also appears to be more common in women: About 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year. Minority ethnic and racial groups have the greatest risk.
Researchers surveyed about 1,000 U.S. women of different racial and ethnic groups over the phone, asking them to identify warning signs of a stroke and what they’d do if they or someone they were with appeared to be having one. Just over half of the women in all racial and ethnic groups could identify major warming signs of a stroke—sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the face, arms, or legs. Less than half overall, however, knew that difficulty speaking could be a sign of a stroke, and even fewer (less than a fourth) were aware that sudden sever headache, unexplained dizziness, or sudden loss of vision could indicate a stroke; even fewer Hispanic women were familiar with these other signs of stroke.
On the positive side, the majority of the women contacted did know what to do if they or someone nearby appeared to be having a stroke: to call 9-1-1 immediately. This was the case in all racial and ethnic groups.
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As American women we can work to improve of own awareness of the warning signs of a stroke and help our loved ones do the same. The American Stroke Association has created the “FAST” campaign to help us learn the signs and remind us to call 9-1-1 immediately if we think we (or someone nearby) are having a stroke.
- Face Drooping: Is one side of the face dropping or numb? Is the person’s smile uneven?
- Arm Weakness: Are the person’s arms weak or numb? If they try to raise both, does only one go up?
- Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred? Are they unable to speak or difficult to understand?
- Time to call 9-1-1: Call 9-1-1 as soon as you notice these symptoms. And pay attention to what time you noticed them—it will help doctors to treat a stroke if they know when it started.
 Mochari-Greenberger H, Towfighi A, Mosca L. National Women’s Knowledge of Stroke Warning Signs, Overall and by Race/Ethnic Group. Stroke [early online publication]. March 19, 2014.