Stroke symptoms more common among females include nausea, vomiting, seizures, hiccups, trouble breathing, and sudden drowsiness. Act FAST and get immediate medical attention if someone experiences a stroke.

Although males are more likely to have a stroke, females have a higher lifetime risk. Females are also more likely to die from a stroke.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 U.S. women will have a stroke. Much of the reason for the higher lifetime risk among females is that they tend to live longer than males. But females also have unique risk factors, like pregnancy and the use of birth control.

The more you know about the symptoms of stroke in women, the better you’ll be able to get help. Quick treatment can mean the difference between disability and recovery.

Many symptoms of stroke are common among both males and females. Hallmark stroke symptoms include:

Females may report symptoms not often associated with strokes in males. These can include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • seizures
  • hiccups
  • shortness of breath
  • pain
  • fainting or loss of consciousness
  • general weakness

Because these symptoms are nonspecific (meaning they may signify a different condition), it may be difficult to connect them immediately to stroke. This can delay treatment, which may hinder recovery.

Symptoms of an altered mental status

Odd behaviors, such as sudden drowsiness, can also indicate a stroke. Clinicians call these symptoms “altered mental status.”

These symptoms include:

A 2022 research review found that symptoms of altered mental status were much more common in females with stroke. In fact, they were more likely to be linked to women than any of the other symptoms studied.

A 2018 review found that when symptoms of altered mental status occur without more hallmark symptoms of stroke, misdiagnoses were significantly more common.

The American Stroke Association recommends an easy strategy for identifying 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, it’s time to call 911 or your local emergency services.

When it comes to a stroke, every minute counts. The longer you wait to call emergency services, the more likely it is that the stroke will result in brain damage or disability.

Although your initial reaction may be to drive yourself to the hospital, you should stay where you are. Call your local emergency services as soon as you notice symptoms and wait for them to arrive. They can provide immediate medical attention that you would be unable to receive if you were to forego the ambulance.

After arriving at the hospital, a doctor will assess your symptoms and medical history. They’ll perform a physical exam and other tests before making a diagnosis and proceeding with treatment.

Strokes can be either ischemic or hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke — the most common type — occurs when a blood clot cuts off blood flow to your brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is due to a ruptured or leaking blood vessel in your brain.

Females have a higher risk of ischemic stroke before age 30 and again after age 85, according to a 2022 review. While males have a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke, females are more likely to experience subarachnoid hemorrhage, a specific subtype.

Experts estimate that 82% to 90% of strokes, regardless of type, are due to modifiable risk factors, such as:

Research suggests that some of these risk factors, like hypertension and obesity, have a greater effect on females’ risk of stroke.

But there are also risk factors that are specific to females, including:

There are also several non-modifiable risk factors, like age, genetics, and race. For example, non-Hispanic Black women in the United States are twice as likely to have a stroke as their white peers, according to the Office of Minority Health.

Stroke recovery starts in the hospital. Once your condition improves, you’ll be moved to a different location, such as a skilled nursing facility or stroke rehab facility.

Some people also continue their care at home. You can supplement at-home care with outpatient therapy or hospice care.

Recovery might include a combination of physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy to help you regain cognitive skills. A care team may teach you how to brush your teeth, bathe, walk, or perform other physical activities.

Stroke recovery can vary from person to person. Physical therapy may help you relearn any lost skills. Some people may be able to relearn how to walk or talk within a matter of months. Others may need more time to recover.

According to a 2019 analysis, 2020 study, and 2022 review, females tend to have similar or better survival rates after stroke than males, but are more likely to experience:

This may be, in part, due to females tending to have strokes at older ages.

Each year, twice as many women die from stroke as they do breast cancer. That’s why it’s important to remain vigilant about your health. To help prevent a future stroke, experts recommend:

Females should also take added precautions because of their unique risk factors. This means:

  • monitoring your blood pressure during and after pregnancy
  • screening for AFib if you’re over 75 years old
  • screening for high blood pressure before starting birth control

Females are more likely to experience certain stroke symptoms, such as nausea, seizures, or loss of consciousness. This can sometimes lead to an incorrect or delayed diagnosis and, therefore, delayed treatment. Being aware of these unique symptoms is important, as timely treatment can improve your chances of survival and a successful recovery.

During recovery, it’s important to stay on track with rehabilitation and maintain or develop a healthy lifestyle. This may help prevent future strokes.