Topinka’s death shining light on women and stroke

Topinka’s death shining light on women and stroke

This week’s news about the death of Illinois Comptroller, Judy Baar Topinka is getting people, especially women, talking about stroke.

Health experts say the condition sometimes affects women differently than their male counterparts.

“Women have unique stroke risk factors as opposed to men,” says Dr. Raina Gupta, a neurologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Unique symptoms can include loss of consciousness or fainting, general weakness, confusion and even hiccups. These symptoms can seem unrecognizable to women so knowing the warning signs can help you in case of an emergency.”

Additional stroke risk factors for women include migraine headaches with aura, atrial fibrillation and sleep abnormalities, Dr. Gupta says. In addition, blood pressure and diabetes have been found to be greater risk factors for women than men, she says.

The National Stroke Association says that stroke is the third leading cause of death for women compared to the fifth leading cause of death for men. That is 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year.

Stroke symptoms can come very quickly. Knowing the warning signs and acting fast can be the difference between life and death, Dr. Gupta notes. Symptoms, often called “suddens” are the key to identifying if you are having a stroke.

Suddens 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

Dr. Gupta also emphasizes that women should see their primary care physician for checkups and screening tests.

“It is important for women to maintain their blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugars in good control and talk to their doctors if they have any concerns,” Dr. Gupta says. “Remember that every minute counts so acting fast can save a life.”

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  1. Wow. I never realized the symptoms are different for men and women. I’ll definitely be sharing this with my family and friends. And for stroke, don’t forget FAST–Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.

    • Thanks Tim for sharing! I was also very surprised about the risk factors being different in women. In fact, women are 60 percent more likely to have a stroke than men.

  2. I cannot understand why the hospital did not detect a stroke after she arrive–the news said she wasn’t feeling well and went to the hospital and died the next day–I don’t understand that–Judy did what the experts tell us to do but the doctors at her hospital was unable to help help; kinda make me trust doctors less.

  3. We have lost a wonderful woman who cared about people, not politics. Could her love of coffee and cigarettes led to the stroke?

  4. This is soo scary. We all need to take care of ourselves more.

  5. Dr. Ashwani Garg
    Ashwani Garg MD March 2, 2015 at 6:21 pm · Reply

    I am surprised to see the glaring absence of cigarette smoking as a risk factor. It is absolutely a puzzle why 1 out of 5 Americans still smoke. Especially since cigarette smoking is not just a risk factor to the person who smokes, but to loved ones and friends around them from secondhand and thirdhand smoke. The cost of cigarettes is also outrageous and unfortunately I see smoking in people who can barely afford their food and medicines, spending about $10 to 20 per day when they can’t afford to buy health insurance! Let’s say the risk factors above pale in comparison to smoking. Smoking nearly doubles the risk of ischemic stroke. This is a bigger risk factor than even diabetes which increases the risk of stroke by 1.5 times. I hope other lawmakers can learn from her and finally quit smoking. The state capitol is the only place in Illinois (apart from smoke shops, cigar bars, and hookah bars) which is exempted from smoking bans in the workplace.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.