Women and Strokes: Unique Risks & Uncommon Symptoms

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the US and are on the rise in young women. Arm yourself by knowing the common and lesser-known risks and symptoms tied to this deadly disease.

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The Surprising Stroke Symptoms for Women (2:46)

Would you know if you were having a stroke? Not all symptoms – especially those in women – are the classic ones you may have already heard about.

A stroke happens when a blood clot travels to or forms in a part of the brain. Deprived of oxygen, the brain cells in the affected area die off. According to the National Stroke Association, up to half a million women experience a stroke (55% more than men) every year, and at least 1 out of 5 of these women die. What’s more, stroke is not a disease that discriminates against age. In fact, strokes are on the rise in young women by up to 40%. Lastly, women are more likely to die from a stroke than men partly because their symptoms can be less common and are more easily missed.

The most common risk factors tied to strokes that impact everyone regardless of race or gender include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight (even by as little as 10 pounds)
  • Family history
  • Smoking 

Not every stroke victim has the classic risk factors. Here are some less common risk for strokes that women, particularly young women in their 20s and 30s, need to know:

Lesser-Known Risk Factors of Stroke


Migraine headaches, which are more common in women then in men, are vascular headaches that cause blood vessels to spasm. These spasms are believed to increase the risk of strokes since they can cause blood flow loss to the brain and create clotting.