Anybody can experience a stroke regardless of gender or age. However, it is more likely to happen to older adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of having a stroke doubles every 10 months beyond 55 years old. The CDC adds that stroke happens to women more than men. In the United States, one in five women from 55 to 77 years old is predisposed to experiencing a stroke. 

If you are a woman nearing the age or a caregiver for an older woman nearing the threshold for increased risk for stroke, this article is for you. 


What Is a Stroke?

A stroke, also called a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is a non-traumatic brain injury. It occurs when something prevents blood from reaching the brain, potentially leading to death due to the lack of oxygen and nutrients needed by the brain to function. As the oxygen levels and essential nutrients run out, bodily functions become affected, manifesting as stroke symptoms.

The longer brain cells are deprived of oxygen, the higher the risk of brain cellular death. Conversely, brain cells can heal and repair themselves if they are oxygen-deprived for a short time. Immediate medical attention for stroke patients, then, is vital.

Common Symptoms of a Stroke in an Elderly Woman

It’s crucial to recognize the symptoms of a stroke in an elderly woman as quickly as possible. Immediate medical treatment not only saves the patient’s life but also lowers the risk of life-altering disabilities and increases the chance of complete recovery.


The National Institute on Aging lists the following stroke symptoms to watch out for. Note that these symptoms don’t emerge gradually but happen suddenly:

    1. Numbness or weakness on one side of the body, whether on the face, arm, or leg
    2. Confusion and trouble speaking, like if the patient suddenly garbled their words mid-conversation or doesn’t understand what you’re saying
    3. Blurriness or loss of vision in one or both eyes
    4. Double vision
    5. Loss of balance, difficulty standing and walking, and tripping over nothing
    6. Loss of coordination and sudden clumsiness as though they are intoxicated
    7. Drowsiness 
    8. Dizziness
    9. Nausea or vomiting
    10. Chest pain 
    11. Heart palpitations
    12. Shortness of breath
    13. Inexplicably severe headache

These symptoms can be mistaken for lack of sleep, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or overheating. However, before you rule out stroke, ask the patient to do this quick and simple test: F.A.S.T.

F – FaceAsk the patient to smile.Check if one side of the face droops or doesn’t move as well as the other half.
A – ArmsAsk the patient to raise both arms.Observe if one arm drifts downward when the patient attempts to raise both arms.
S – SpeechAsk the patient to repeat a simple sentence.Check if they are slurring their words, cannot repeat the sentence, or appear confused and can’t understand the sentence.
T – TimeIf you observe even just one out of three symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Time is essential when someone is having a stroke; hesitating for even one minute could be the difference between life and death. So call 911 immediately and describe the FAST tests the patient failed to stress the urgency of the situation. The quicker the patient receives medical attention, the higher their chances of survival.


Additional Information on Strokes

The National Institute on Aging (NIH) recognizes two major types of strokes:


1. Ischemic: This occurs when a blood clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain and the artery narrows, constricting the blood flow to the brain cells. There are three subclassifications for ischemic strokes:

    • Thrombosis: The clot originates from a blood vessel in the brain or neck
    • Embolism: The clot originates from another part of the body and gets carried by the bloodstream toward the brain
    • Stenosis: The narrowing of blood vessels due to fat buildup

2. Hemorrhagic: As the name suggests, this type of stroke happens because of internal bleeding, usually by a burst blood vessel sending blood into the brain cavity. With the ruptured blood vessel unable to circulate oxygenated blood, the brain will soon become oxygen and nutrient-deprived. Pressure from the pooling blood will also compress and damage adjacent brain tissue.

Another type of stroke is transient ischemic attack (TIA). This “mini-stroke” happens when blood vessels become temporarily blocked, often lasting less than five minutes. TIA may have milder symptoms that quickly go away, but make no mistake: It is still a medical emergency. TIA is considered a “warning stroke,” indicating a major stroke that can happen in the next few hours or days. 


How To Care for an Elderly Woman After Her Stroke

The patient’s condition in the days following their stroke will depend on several factors, like how quickly they received medical treatment, their condition before the stroke, and whether they sustained brain injuries. Generally, however, stroke survivors need hands-on care, rehabilitation, and a strong support system of friends and family to recover.

  • Counseling: Stroke survivors can exhibit behavioral, emotional, and cognitive changes. While therapists help them heal physically, psychologists and neuropsychologists can help manage their mood changes, thoughts, and emotions. Neuropsychology and counseling help prepare patients to go back to everyday life – working, studying, and making important decisions regarding finances and lifestyle. 
  • Therapy: The human brain can get “rewired” after a stroke, affecting various functions and requiring patients to undergo therapy and rehabilitation. 
    • Physical Therapy: Many patients need to relearn basic motor skills like standing, walking, sitting, and lying down. There are many rehabilitation exercises and programs that can help with a patient’s mobility skills.
    • Occupational Therapy: After regaining their strength and mobility, patients may have to relearn everyday activities like eating, drinking, bathing, using the toilet, putting on clothes, reading, writing, etc. These are “occupational skills” people need to survive.
    • Speech Therapy: A stroke can impair a person’s understanding of language and communication. Speech therapy helps patients develop new communication methods, whether verbally, in writing, or through hand signs and gestures.
  • Supportive Care: Patients who require extensive therapy will benefit from round-the-clock care from caregivers and family members. Supportive care doesn’t directly address brain injuries, but it provides the emotional support and living assistance patients need as they recover.
  • Lifestyle Change: To facilitate faster recovery, patients must pursue a healthy lifestyle and avoid activities and indulgences that could compromise their health and well-being. They require proper nutrition, adequate physical exercise, and a healthy environment and must avoid drinking, smoking, and food high in saturated fat and cholesterol.

Acquired brain injuries from a stroke can be debilitating for anyone, but particularly older women. Women statistically have longer life expectancies and are more likely to experience a stroke. Learn the symptoms of a stroke in an elderly woman, and you might save a life. 


Get Specialized Care at Moody Neurorehabilitation

If you know someone who has survived a stroke and needs rehabilitation, therapy and/or assisted living, Moody Neurorehabilitation can help. We offer personalized care and quality treatment for people recovering from brain injuries. Our expertise in post-acute neuro recovery helps patients achieve a high quality of life and regain the skills necessary to re-enter the community. 


Contact us to learn more about our services.



Moody Neurorehabilitation Institute (Moody Neuro) provides personalized care to treat the unique challenges of brain injury with the singular purpose of achieving the best possible outcome for patients and their families.

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