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Learn more about the signs of a stroke from womenshealth.gov.

Stroke is a major cause of death and disability. A stroke occurs when part of your brain doesn't get the blood that it needs. Depending on the parts of the brain damaged by a stroke, people who survive a stroke can have problems with:

  • Movement
  • Sensations
  • Language
  • Thinking and memory
  • Emotions

A stroke happens fast. The most common signs of stroke are sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg (mainly on one side of the body)
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance
  • Confusion or trouble talking or understanding speech
  • Very bad headache with no known cause

Women may also have other sudden symptoms, such as feeling sick to your stomach, face and arm or leg pain, hiccups, feeling very tired, chest pain, shortness of breath, or a racing heartbeat.

If you have any of these symptoms, call 911. Getting treatment within three hours from the start of symptoms increases your chances of walking away from a stroke with few or no disabilities.

African-Americans are affected by stroke more than any other group. The rate of stroke in African-American women is almost twice that of white women. African-American women also have a higher risk of dying from a stroke than white women. This is partly because African-Americans are more likely to have certain risk factors for stroke, such as:

Take these steps to lower your risk of stroke:

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
    • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
    • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
    • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
    • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
  • Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruit. Choose lean meats and low-fat cheese and dairy products. Limit foods that have lots of saturated fat, like butter, whole milk, baked goods, ice cream, fatty meats, and cheese.
  • Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Follow your doctor's orders to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels under control.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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