About two years ago, NPR had author-nueroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor discussing her book “My Stroke of Insight”, a memoir of her own stroke story. Taylor narrates that she was thirty-seven, in what she felt was the prime of her life, when she experienced a stroke in her home. Knowing the symptoms, Taylor details the harrowing account of experiencing the left, logical side of her brain quickly degenerating within a matter of hours while the right side’s compensatory, euphoric effects created a seductive, false sense of well being. Her own perceptions, due to the brain damage occurring, are described as “I could no longer clearly discern the physical boundaries of where I began and where I ended”. She was literally loosing a piece of her mind.
Jill Bolte Taylor’s book is an eloquent personal insight for this National Stroke Awareness Month especially pertaining to strokes and women. This is especially true because a May 4th 2010 survey, conducted by Genentech and published by healthywomen.org states that only 27 percent of women can name two of the six primary stroke symptoms, with women taking significantly longer to seek help than men, due to the possibility of different expressive symptoms. Also, seven out of ten women stated that they are not aware that they, as women, are at a greater risk than men for suffering from a stroke.
This is disarming because women are twice as likely to die from a stroke than they are from breast cancer. More disconcerting is that 68 percent of women stated that they are not aware of this statistic, with only 11 percent of women noting that their physician initiated a conversation about strokes with them. As we can see, there is a huge discrepancy in perception of risk, and it is up to both women and the healthcare professions to swiftly address this issue.
What is ultimately disconcerting is that the risk factors inclusive to women are manageable with some proper health guidance. Along with a healthy diet and exercise, stroke can be prevented with identification of these risk factors available from myoptumhealth.com:
Estrogen therapy (i.e. the pill) can be a risk if used by women over thirty-five
Migraine headache history especially an aural headache (affecting hearing) and doubly if concerning conjunctive with estrogen therapy
Family history has more impact on women especially if it is someone in their immediate family who
- has suffered a stroke
Sleeping more than eight or nine hours per night in women is a risk (bummer)
Pregnancy can increase a stroke risk 2.4 times than non-pregnant women
If women are primed, en masse, with this information, then we can hopefully see some of these numbers deflate dramatically. And with the widespread misconceptions about stroke risk the norm, there is a lot of work on the part of healthcare and women alike to spread the word and make a difference.