Women’s Health: Stroke Awareness Month

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- It may be surprising to hear that strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. In fact, one in five women between the ages of 55-75 will have a stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Four out of five strokes can be prevented, making it important to know the risks and warning signs the CDC said.

“80% of strokes are preventable and so the fact that we can prevent 80% of the strokes is really quite amazing,” Dr. Alexandra Paul, a neurosurgeon at Albany Medical Center, told NEWS10’s, Mary Wilson.

There are several reasons why women have a higher risk of stroke including pregnancy, birth control pills, migraine headaches, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure and hypertension, said Dr. Paul.

“The act of being pregnant actually puts women at a higher risk of having a stroke, oral contraceptives also increase the risk of stroke in women,” he said.

High blood pressure or hypertension, is the most treatable cause of stroke. A healthy lifestyle is the best prevention, the CDC said.

“Eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, be physically active, don’t smoke, and have your blood pressure checked,” Dr. Paul said.

Being able to identify the symptoms of a stroke can not only help yourself, it can also help your loved ones.

 “About 66% of the time, someone other than the stroke victim makes the decision to seek treatment and so recognizing the signs and sudden symptoms of stroke could actually help save a life,” Dr. Paul said. 

‘BE FAST’ when it comes to strokes

  • Balance- Is the person suddenly having trouble with balance or coordination?
  • Eyes- Is the person experiencing suddenly blurred or double vision or a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes?
  • Face drooping- Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?
  • Arm weakness- Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech difficulty- Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly? Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand?
  • Time- Someone experiencing the above symptoms should get immediate medical attention, even if the symptoms go away. Call 911 or take the person to the hospital.

Source: Duke Health

The most common treatment for stroke victims is a clot-busting drug but it can only be given within four and a half hours after the onset of symptoms. Getting swift treatment can make a significant difference in a patients outcome.

“Some stroke symptoms are reversible and that’s called a transient ischemic attack and then some strokes are much more devastating where patients are left completely pelagic on one side, unable to move the arm or the leg and no speech at all,” said Dr. Paul.

A thrombectomy can also lessen the debilitating effects of a stroke and can be done in a wider time frame.

“We can go inside the blood vessels up to the blood vessels of the brain and try to take out the clot and that has had a really remarkable effect on reducing the disability of stroke in the country,” Dr. Paul said.

The surgery is a newer treatment which can be done at Albany Medical Center but this isn’t the case for all hospitals in America. One in six patients does not have access to a thrombectomy.

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