Many women unaware of stroke's warning signs

Many American women may not be aware of the warning signs of stroke, according to a study published online March 19 in Stroke. Awareness may be especially low among Hispanic women.

Heidi Mochari-Greenberger, PhD, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, and colleagues used telephone survey data from a 2012 American Heart Association study of cardiovascular disease awareness among English-speaking women 25 years of age and older. They evaluated participants’ knowledge of stroke warning signs and what to do first if there are warning signs.

A little more than half of the 1,205 women surveyed (51 percent) were able to identify the warning sign of sudden weakness or numbness of the face or limb on one side, and women of all races were able to identify this sign equally well. Only 48 percent of women were able to identify loss of or trouble speaking or understanding speech as a warning sign, and fewer Hispanic women were able to do so than white women.

Less than 25 percent of women were able to identify other warning signs, including severe headache, unexplained dizziness or sudden dimness or loss of vision as warning signs. About 20 percent could not identify one warning sign. Most of the women said they would call 9-1-1 at the first sign of a stroke, which did not vary by race.

“The data highlight a knowledge gap specifically related to stroke warning signs. Effective clinical counseling strategies and public awareness campaigns, such as the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Spot a Stroke FAST (Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, Time to call 911) campaign, are needed to reach diverse populations of women,” the authors wrote.