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October 29 is recognized as World Stroke Day

October 24, 2023 

Many people may be familiar with the acronym BE FAST when it comes to identifying signs of a stroke and the action to take (Balance difficulty, Eye changes, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurred and Time to call 911). But many may not realize that while these signs of a stroke may be typical, women often experience different symptoms that can be misinterpreted for other ailments.


HSHS St. John’s Hospital is drawing attention to signs of stroke in women in recognition of World Stroke Day on Oct. 29. This annual event, started in 2006 by the World Stroke Organization (WSO), is an opportunity to raise awareness of the serious nature and high rates of stroke, talk about prevention and treatment and ensure better care and support for survivors.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so brain cells die. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability and accelerating recovery times.

While women may have the typical stroke symptoms, they also may experience more subtle signs:

  • Severe headache

  • Generalized fatigue or weakness

  • Confusion, disorientation or memory problems

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Hiccups

While vague signs, it doesn’t mean every sign of these symptoms indicates a stroke. It would be a cause for concern when these signs are sudden, are in combination, or impair ability to function.

HSHS St. John’s Stroke Center Facilitator Kathryn Hampsey, MSN, RN, SCRN, shared, “The signs that women experience can be more subtle and imprecise than the ones traditionally associated with stroke symptoms, leading women to dismiss them as just exhaustion due to a busy schedule. As such, they may delay seeking emergency medical treatment when time is of the essence with strokes,” she said. “There is a chance it could be a ‘false alarm,’ but better to get yourself checked out and find out it is not a stroke, than delay life-saving treatment.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for women. In the United States, 1 in 5 women between the ages of 55 and 75 will have a stroke.

Main risk factors for stroke for all people are high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol. Stroke risk also increases with age. Because women generally live longer than men, more women have strokes over their lifetimes. Other unique stroke risk factors that women have include:

  • Pregnancy

  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy)

  • Birth control pills

  • Hormone replacement therapy

  • Migraines with aura (sensory disturbances)

  • Atrial fibrillation

HSHS St. John’s Hospital recently announced that it has received certification from DNV as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, reflecting the highest level of competence for treatment of serious stroke events. The DNV Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification is based on standards set forth by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association. It affirms that the medical center addresses the full spectrum of stroke care – diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education – and establishes clear metrics to evaluate outcomes.

HSHS St. John’s Hospital has also received the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines® - Stroke Gold Plus quality achievement award for its commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines, ultimately leading to more lives saved and reduced disability.

October 29 is recognized as World Stroke Day