Stroke symptoms may occur with different frequencies in males and females, but recent research suggests the differences are not that significant. However, males may be at higher risk of stroke at younger ages.

Every year, about 370,000 U.S. males have a stroke. A stroke is an attack caused by a clot or a ruptured vessel that has cut off blood flow to the brain.

While females have a higher lifetime risk of stroke, males are more likely to have a stroke at a younger age. And while previous research suggested that stroke may cause different symptoms in males and females, more recent research suggests that the differences, if any, are small.

Regardless of sex or gender, the ability to recognize stroke symptoms can help save lives. Keep reading to learn more about stroke symptoms and what to do if you suspect you or someone else is having a stroke.

There are no stroke symptoms unique to males. While research suggests possible differences in the frequency of symptoms between males and females, anyone can experience the hallmark symptoms of stroke, including:

  • Eyes: sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Face, arms, or legs: sudden paralysis, weakness, or numbness, most likely on one side of the body
  • Head: sudden and severe headache with no known cause
  • Legs: sudden dizziness, difficulty walking, or loss of balance or coordination
  • Other: confusion, slurred speech, and difficulty understanding speech

The exact symptoms vary depending on which area of the brain is affected. Strokes often affect only the left or only the right side of the brain.

Focal vs. nonfocal symptoms

There may be differences in how males and females experience focal and nonfocal symptoms. Focal symptoms are those related to a specific area of the brain. Examples include slurred speech, vertigo, and paresis.

Nonfocal symptoms, such as confusion, headache, and chest pain, are not specific to a certain brain area. They’re often nonspecific and can be confused for other conditions.

A 2022 research review found that females were more likely to experience nonfocal symptoms. There were no significant differences between sexes with regard to focal symptoms. However, researchers did find that males were more likely to experience paresis and focal visual disturbances, like double vision.

Knowledge of stroke symptoms among men

A 2015 study found that women were more likely to have a better knowledge of stroke symptoms than men. Being aware of the warning symptoms of a stroke is key to improving your outlook after a stroke.

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The American Stroke Association has developed an easy-to-remember strategy for recognizing stroke symptoms. If you think you or someone around you may be having a stroke, you should act FAST.

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these symptoms, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.

Remember that when it comes to a stroke, every second counts.Treatment for strokes works most effectively within the first hours after the first symptoms start. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms disappear.

The longer you wait to call emergency assistance, the higher the chance of brain damage or disability from the stroke. Watch your loved one carefully while you wait for an ambulance to arrive.

Though you may want to, you shouldn’t drive yourself or your loved one to the hospital during a stroke. Medical attention may be needed while you’re traveling to the emergency room. Instead, call your local emergency services immediately and wait for the paramedics to arrive. They are trained to treat and take care of people while rushing to the hospital.

After being admitted to the hospital, a doctor will review your or your loved one’s symptoms and medical history. They will also perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests to determine if a stroke occurred.

Strokes are due either to a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain (ischemic stroke) or a ruptured blood vessel in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).

Males are more likely than females to have a hemorrhagic stroke, according to a 2022 research review. The risk of ischemic stroke is also higher in males between ages 40 and 80, according to a 2021 study.

People of any sex have an increased risk of stroke if they:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some of these risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, are more common in men than in women. More than half of U.S. males have high blood pressure, and three-quarters of those males do not have it under control.

Because of longer life expectancy, females have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than males. However, at younger ages, men are more likely to have a stroke.

According to a 2019 German study, about 1 in 5 people who’ve had a stroke will experience another stroke within 5 years. Many of the same risk factors, like hypertension, smoking, and high cholesterol, can increase your risk of a future stroke.

It’s important that you prevent or treat conditions that put you at a higher risk for stroke.

Learn more about stroke prevention.

Males tend to have better survival rates and functional outcomes after a stroke than females. This could be due to misdiagnoses, specific risk factors, or higher age for females with stroke.

Still, it can take a lot of hard work to recover after a stroke. Rehabilitation won’t reverse brain damage, but it can help you relearn the skills you may have lost. This includes learning to walk or talk.

The time it takes you to recover depends on the severity of the stroke. Although some people take a few months to recover, others may need therapy for years. People with paralysis or motor control problems may need long-term inpatient care.

Still, people who have had a stroke can live long and fulfilling lives if they follow through with rehabilitation and adhere to healthy lifestyles that can prevent future strokes.

Does your body warn you before a stroke?

Strokes often occur without warning, but symptoms can develop over hours or sometimes days. For example, a 2020 study found that about 1 in 6 people experienced a severe headache in the week before a stroke.

Learn more about stroke warning signs.

Can drinking water help prevent a stroke?

Dehydration may contribute to your risk of ischemic stroke, but it’s not a significant risk factor. Drinking moderate amounts of water is healthy, but it’s not enough to prevent a stroke if you have more significant risk factors. Managing conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes is much more important.

What is a pre-stroke?

A transient ischemic attack (TIA, aka ministroke or pre-stroke) is a temporary disruption of blood flow to part of your brain. The disruption isn’t long enough to cause permanent brain damage like in an ischemic stroke. However, having a TIA significantly increases your risk of a full stroke.

Males and females may experience stroke symptoms in slightly different ways. Males may be less likely to experience symptoms like headache and vertigo, but that doesn’t mean they can’t affect you.

Recognizing stroke symptoms is critical for ensuring prompt diagnosis and treatment, which can help improve your chances of survival and recovery.