Women unaware of stroke risk, poll reveals

Stroke Association
Stroke Association

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, today, October 29, uncovers widespread misconceptions about stroke amongst people living in Yorkshire and Humberside.

The findings, based on a UK-wide survey of 2,000 adults, show that:

Three quarters of people living in Yorkshire and Humberside (76 per cent) did not know that stroke is one of the world’s biggest killers

Just a quarter of people living in Yorkshire and the Humber (26 per cent) said they thought they would be most likely to have a stroke as they got older.

Julia MacLeod, Regional Head of Operations in Yorkshire and the Humber 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.

Margaret Wilby was just 35 and working part time in Wakefield College at the time of her stroke. She was raising her seven year old twin sons, Ben and Oliver, single-handedly after their father and her ex-partner, Wayne, sadly passed away following a heart attack aged 39.

One evening in February 2013, Margaret was at home and after putting the boys to bed, enjoyed a few glasses of wine. She lost the use of her left side and thought she had had too much to drink. Her boys found her collapsed behind the living room door the following morning. Margaret doesn’t remember anything about being in hospital but staff told her that she was extremely lucky to be alive; her stroke was so severe. When she woke after the stroke, she couldn’t remember the last two years of her life and it took weeks for her memories to start to come back. Margaret now has no right vision in both eyes and her memory has been affected.

She says: “I have to set an alarm to remember to pick my boys up for school. I also struggle with my speech and sometimes have trouble finding the words I want to say.

“My boys gave me something to fight for and I’m so proud of them for everything they do to support me. They’re still only nine but do a lot of for themselves at home, as well as for me. My eldest twin Ben has taken over being in charge of the house. The Stroke Association team referred them to Barnados Young Carers earlier this year and they are now getting the support they both need.”

Julia said: “Strokes 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 (29 October) 2014, we’re urging women in Yorkshire and Humber 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.”