One in eight women in the UK wrongly believes that a stroke could never happen to them, according to the findings of a poll published today by the Stroke Association.
Around 30,000 women die from a stroke every year. The condition is the third leading cause of death in women in the UK, and the second biggest killer worldwide.
The charity’s latest poll, commissioned to mark World Stroke Day on 29 October, uncovers widespread misconceptions about stroke amongst women. The findings, based on a UK-wide survey of 2,000 adults, show that:
- Three quarters of women (74%) did not know that stroke is one of the world’s biggest killers
- Fewer than a third of women (28%) said they thought they would be most likely to have a stroke as they got older.
Nikki Hill, Deputy Director of External Affairs at the Stroke Association, said: “It’s extremely worrying that most women don’t even have stroke on their radar. We know that women’s stroke risk significantly increases as they get older, and one in five women will have a stroke in their lifetime.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to women of all ages to be aware and better informed of the steps they can take to reduce their stroke risk. Simple lifestyle changes, such as keeping blood pressure under control, exercising regularly and stopping smoking, could significantly lower women’s likelihood of having a stroke.”
The research also found that women have different attitudes towards the consequences of stroke compared to men. The findings show that;
- Over half of women (51%) said they feared becoming reliant on others as a result of a stroke, compared to just two fifths of men (44%)
- Memory loss was one of the most feared consequences of a stroke for men, while a greater proportion of women feared losing their ability to speak
- Just one in 25 women (4%) said they feared losing their ability to walk.
Nikki Hill continued: “Stroke can hit you out of nowhere and rob you of your speech, your ability to walk, your memory, your independence and your dignity. This devastating condition kills three times as many women as breast cancer every year.
“On World Stroke Day 2014, we’re urging women everywhere to have a better understanding of their risk factors for stroke. We offer advice, information and support for anyone worried about stroke and its impact. The condition doesn’t have to be inevitable; together we can conquer stroke.”
To mark World Stroke Day, the Stroke Association is launching a new fundraising campaign aimed at raising awareness of the impact of stroke on women.
Wendy West, 40 from Liverpool (pictured above), had a stroke in April 2010, just three days after giving birth to her baby daughter Charlotte by emergency c-section. Six months after her stroke, Wendy was diagnosed with Hughes Syndrome, a disorder of the immune system that causes an increased risk of blood clots, and Type 2 Protein S Deficiency, which were attributed as the cause.
Wendy had an epidural which had gone in too far and she was told she was likely to get a post-epidural headache. After being discharged from hospital, she stayed in bed with a terrible headache, but days later started to feel extremely ill. When Wendy tried to put her left arm in the air she couldn’t keep it there. She also experienced pins and needles in her left hand side, followed by uncontrollable muscle spasms. Wendy was taken to A&E where after an MRI, she was moved to the stroke unit.
Wendy said: “Although I now don’t have any major physical problems, I do experience aches in my left arm when tired. I also have some neurological problems, particularly with understanding and I’m more prone to bursting into tears. I’m also not comfortable going to new places on my own anymore.
“It probably sounds like a cliché, but I’m so proud of myself for just getting back to normal as much as possible. I made it back to work full time and our little girl has now turned four and started school. It’s been good to talk to other people who’ve had a stroke and let them know they too can come out the other side.”
To find out more, and to view information and support available, visit www.stroke.org.uk/women.