Stroke: Know the Warning Signs Unique to Women

I never thought much about my brain until it went haywire on me.

I’d ignored a few months of irksome forgetfulness–just approaching menopause, I thought; nothing serious. And, with perfect blood pressure, low cholesterol, regular exercise, and a healthy weight, I had no idea I could be at risk for stroke.

I was home alone the morning my stroke hit. The only symptom I noticed at first was a “floppy doll” hand.

“Strange, I thought,” my hand fell asleep in the shower.”

Of course, hands don’t really fall asleep in the shower—a symptom that my thinking was confused.  Other than being unable to control my hand, I felt fine, except for a strange out-of-body sensation, almost like I was a hovering witness looking down on myself. There was this nagging thought that I should call for help, but I felt almost guilty at the thought of rousting someone to come over. After all, I wasn’t in any pain.

Gradually it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember where to find my husband, couldn’t think of a single friend’s name, didn’t know how to work the computer, and finally—when I decided to call emergency, anyway—I couldn’t remember the number­: 911.

I did think to dial “O.” It was only when the operator answered and I tried to speak that I realized: the “words” coming from my mouth were just gibberish. The operator had to trace the call to send an ambulance.

When the paramedic told me I was having a stroke, I didn’t believe him. Of course I’m not having a stroke, I wanted to tell him. Strokes are for the elderly, for smokers, for overweight couch potatoes.  I’m forty-eight years old, fit and perfectly healthy. Perfectly healthy people don’t just wake up feeling fine and then–out of the blue–have strokes.”

But sometimes they do. I did.

Save a brain, of even a life. Make sure you and your loved ones know the most common warning signs for stroke:

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.


Stroke symptoms may be different in women.  Symptoms typical in women also include:

  • SUDDEN face and limb pain
  • SUDDEN hiccups
  • SUDDEN nausea
  • SUDDEN general weakness
  • SUDDEN chest pain
  • SUDDEN shortness of breath
  • SUDDEN palpitations

A stroke is an acute medical emergency. Know the warning signs —then Call 9-1-1

Has anyone in your experienced stroke? What were the symptoms?