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Women and Stroke

Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer every year.


According to a recent survey, most women believe breast cancer is five times more prevalent than stroke – but it’s not. In fact, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer every year. In the same study, 40 percent of women said they are only somewhat or not at all concerned about having a stroke.

Source: National Stroke Association 
“The signs and symptoms of stroke are not well understood in the general population – and that includes both men and women,” said Sandra Narayanan, M.D., Director of Interventional Neuroradiology with DMC Women’s Health Services and Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery and Neurology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “One of the most important things we can do is to improve public awareness of the symptoms of stroke and encourage men and women to seek immediate medical treatment if they think they are having a stroke.”


Physicians like Dr. Narayanan have access to life-saving treatments during the first three hours of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke. But if you wait longer to seek treatment, your treatment options dwindle.

 “The best thing you can do is to call
9-1-1 if you think you or someone else is having a stroke,” Dr. Narayanan said. “Recent studies have actually shown that arrival at the hospital by EMS is a significant predictor of stroke survival and improved treatment outcomes.”


Common stroke symptoms seen in both men and women include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg -- especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


According to the National Stroke Association, women often experience unique stroke symptoms, including:

  • Sudden face and limb pain
  • Sudden hiccups
  • Sudden nausea
  • Sudden general weakness
  • Sudden chest pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Sudden palpitations


Men and women should note the time when any symptoms first appear. If given within three hours of the first symptom, an FDA-approved clot-buster medication may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.


Each year, 425,000 women in the United States suffer from stroke – that’s 55,000 more women than men. But this statistic is likely due to the fact that there are more women in the U.S. than men and they have a longer life expectancy than men.


The recent survey, which was commissioned by HealthyWomen in partnership with the National Stroke Association and the American College of Emergency Physicians, revealed a number of startling facts about women and their understanding of stroke symptoms. According to the survey:

  • Only 27 percent of women could name more than two of the six primary stroke symptoms.
  • Seven out of 10 women said they are not aware they are more likely than men to have a stroke, and were not at all or only somewhat knowledgeable about risk factors.
  • African-American women suffer a significantly higher number of strokes than Caucasian women, yet African American women were less likely to correctly identify what causes a stroke compared to Caucasian women.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of death for Hispanic women, but Hispanic women were significantly less aware of stroke symptoms than Caucasian women.


All of this points to a need for increased education and awareness about stroke and its symptoms.


To schedule an appointment with Dr. Narayanan, or another stroke expert at DMC Women’s Health Services, call 1-888-DMC-2500.

Sandra Narayanan, M.D.


Assistant Professor, Departments of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Wayne State University School of Medicine

• Interventional Neuroradiology
• Vascular Neurology

Dr. Sandra Narayanan is a graduate of the six-year Honors Program in Medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine. She has completed a neurology residency at University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, a vascular neurology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a three-year fellowship in diagnostic and interventional neuroradiology at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

During the course of her training, Dr. Narayanan has gained experience in the clinical evaluation and care of acute stroke patients and their rehabilitation, intensive care monitoring of neurological and neurosurgical patients, and the interpretation of a wide array of noninvasive neuroimaging.

Dr. Narayanan has further specialized in minimally invasive neuroendovascular procedures to coil intracranial aneurysms and treat acute stroke. Dr. Narayanan also embolizes arteriovenous malformations, fistulas, and tumors, and stent narrowed cranial/cervical vessels. She is skilled in performing diagnostic and interventional cerebral/spinal angiography in adult and pediatric patients alike.

Related DMC Services

DMC Harper University Hospital Neurosurgery Services   

DMC Detroit Receiving Hospital Stroke Care Services 

DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital Neurology Services  

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