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Stroke affects women twice as often as men

May 16, 2023 


Hospital News

May is Stoke Awareness Month; learn the signs, symptoms and risk factors in women
Eau Claire, Wis. – One in five women will have a stroke; 85,000 women will die each year from stroke complications; approximately 55,000 more women than men will have a stroke, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA).

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital Stroke Coordinator, Annie Letkiewicz says women may experience and report stroke symptoms differently than men. “Women may have symptoms subtle enough to miss or downplay as they juggle work and home life. Sometimes symptoms start small and women may write it off as stress or part of a busy day or week.”

Stroke symptoms unique to women may include:
•    Nausea
•    Chest pain
•    Hiccups
•    Shortness of breath
•    Racing heartbeat

Letkiewicz says it’s important to call 911 if experiencing any of these symptoms because minutes matter during a stroke, which happens when the brain is deprived of oxygen after blood flow is blocked by a clot or ruptured vessel. 

Other common stroke symptoms for both women and men can be remembered using the acronym BE FAST:
        B – Balance difficulty: Sudden loss of balance or coordination, weakness or dizziness
        E – Eye changes: Sudden onset of vision changes in one or both eyes
        F – Face drooping: Sudden onset of facial drooping, usually on one side
        A – Arm weakness: Sudden weakness or numbness in the arm, leg or face, usually on one side of the body
        S – Speech difficulty: Sudden onset of trouble speaking or difficulty in understanding speech
        T – Terrible headache: Sudden onset on severe headache with no known cause

The ASA says some risk factors for a stroke are also unique to women, and increase in women who:
•    Are pregnant or have had a complicated pregnancy
•    Have or had preeclampsia (high blood pressure) during pregnancy
•    Use hormonal therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause
•    Have migraines that disturb vision
•    Have atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
•    Smoke

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services’ Coverdell Stroke Program for excellence in stroke care. It also is certified as a Primary Plus Stroke Center from DNV Healthcare USA Inc. To learn more, visit our Stroke Care webpage.

About HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital
HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the Founding Institute, and it is an affiliate of Hospital Sisters Health System. Since 1889, it has been meeting patient needs in western Wisconsin with the latest medical innovations and technology, together with a Franciscan whole-person healing tradition.

About Hospital Sisters Health System
Hospital Sisters Health System’s (HSHS) mission is to reveal and embody Christ’s healing love for all people through our high quality, Franciscan health care ministry. HSHS provides state-of-the-art health care to our patients and is dedicated to serving all people, especially the most vulnerable, at each of our physician practices and 15 local hospitals in two states - Illinois (Breese, Decatur, Effingham, Greenville, Highland, Litchfield, O’Fallon, Shelbyville and Springfield) and Wisconsin (Chippewa Falls, Eau Claire, Oconto Falls, Sheboygan, and two in Green Bay). HSHS is sponsored by Hospital Sisters Ministries, and Hospital Sisters of St. Francis is the founding institute. For more information about HSHS, visit For more information about Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, visit

Stroke affects women twice as often as men
Media Contact

Angela Deja

Director of Communications and Public Relations