Frisco Woman Shares Story of Survival After Having Stroke at 34 – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

May is American stroke month.

The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association are working to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of stroke, especially among women.

The data really makes it clear:

  • Someone in the US has a stroke every 40 seconds.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of death in women.
  • One in five women suffers a stroke or about 55,000 more women than men each year.
  • Women have a higher lifelong risk of stroke than men.

It can happen to anyone

A woman from Frisco never thought it would happen to her. But at the age of 34.

“I think it’s easy to copy lines as something that happens when you’re older. I thought about something that happened to my grandfather, something like that. So it wasn’t that important to me, ”said Christal Howard.

Howard, a former television news reporter and presenter who turned newspaper publisher, said she has always had a long to-do list in her life.

“But I’ve never put myself at the very top of that to-do list and my own health,” she said. I didn’t connect the dots that could happen to me at 34. “

Christal Howard

Christal Howard and her family.

In 2018, the mother of two focused on raising her children and excelling at work.

“It’s easy to take care of other people and not take care of yourself primarily. And I think I was definitely guilty of it, ”she said.

But when she started having severe headaches, she chalked up migraines that she had had for years.

“Then one night I woke up in the middle of the night and it was extremely painful to the point where I thought I might throw up,” recalls Howard. No words would come out. It was a strange stuttering sound. I’m not even sure what it sounded like. “

After a trip to the emergency room, she said all signs initially pointed to migraines.

“The doctor gave me a choice. He said, ‘Do you want to get an imaging or do you just want to go home and take some medication?’ “, She said.” And I thought it would be easier to go home, take some medication, and sleep it off. So I decided to do it. “

But it got worse the following week. She could barely speak at work.

“I was kind of confused in life. I have a big job publishing a newspaper, so the schedule keeps moving. And I love that part of it, it’s my favorite thing, “said Howard.” I wanted to assert myself and tried – until finally a member of staff came up to me and said: “Something is wrong with you, I really think that you need it to be checked out. ‘”

Another trip to the hospital eventually revealed that she had multiple strokes. A doctor told her it was a dissection of her carotid artery – one of her arteries was breaking up, blocking the flow of blood to her brain.

“I had no history at the time. So I didn’t prioritize that,” said Howard. “But if I had had a family doctor, I would probably have seen him and maybe he would have been more attuned to the fact.” that something was going on here. “

Christal Howard

Howard said her husband never left her side and slept on the hospital floor every night while she went through the recovery process.

She was taken to a hospital that had a specialized department to provide her with the care and medication she needed to recover.

“You have all these medical terms coming up to you and things you have never thought of before. In addition, you are in the haze because you are obviously not doing well. So it was just a whirlwind, “said Howard.

Understand a stroke

There are two different types of stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain can rupture. Ischemic strokes occur when a blood clot forms and blocks an artery that leads to the brain.

According to Dr. Claudia Perez of Texas Health Fort Worth, stroke can affect anyone at any age.

High blood pressure is the most common cause, and it’s more common in women due to pregnancy, menopause, and birth control pills.

“About 50% of women have high blood pressure, and if we look at studies where about 75% of women with high blood pressure do not have their blood pressure controlled,” said Perez.

Women are at higher risk of stroke at different stages of life.

“The first time this is really considered is when someone starts taking birth control pills. Birth control pills and someone who already has high blood pressure increase the risk of stroke,” said Perez. “Smoking can four times increase your risk of stroke. If you’re on birth control pills, don’t smoke.”

Pregnant women are three times more likely to have a stroke than non-pregnant women of the same age. Black and Latina women are even more at risk of developing high blood pressure, having a stroke, and complications during or immediately after pregnancy.

And if you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, there is an increased risk of developing high blood pressure and having a stroke later in life.

Finally, stroke can become a risk factor for women entering menopause and starting hormone replacement therapy.

“It will be important to identify those unique times in a woman’s life when they are at higher risk so we can take preventative measures,” said Perez.

She says the FAST Method can help people identify and understand the warning signs of a stroke:

  • Hanging face: Is one side of the face drooping or is it numb? Invite the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • Arm weakness: Is an arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Is an arm drifting down?
  • Language difficult: Is the language blurry? Can the person not speak or is they difficult to understand? Invite the person to repeat a simple phrase such as “The sky is blue”.
  • Time to call 911: If anyone has any of these symptoms call 9-1-1 and go to a hospital right away. Check the time so you know when the first symptoms started.

“So let’s say the clot goes through and dissolves. But it serves as a warning sign. Even if the symptoms go away, it is very important that we get to the hospital as it can be a warning sign of a major stroke, ”said Perez.

In addition, men and women share stroke symptoms, but women may experience more subtle warning signs such as disorientation, confusion, memory loss, fatigue, nausea, or vomiting.

Prevention is the key

Howard believed he was leading a healthy lifestyle before her stroke.

Christal Howard

“I have become more aware of my cholesterol intake. It had nothing to do with my stroke, but I don’t want to add any risk factors in the future that could cause it to happen again, ”she said. “That’s why I’m very careful about taking medication and eating healthy to make sure I’m lowering my risk factors in every possible way.”

She wants others to know that it can happen to anyone.

“I think it’s important to know that you have to be careful,” said Howard. “While you might be a runaway, you are never too young and it is never impossible for it to happen to you or someone you love.”

Dr. Perez said eating a healthy diet, exercising, controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress, and understanding family history can prevent stroke. In fact, up to 80% of strokes are preventable.

“Lifestyle is important. Maintain a healthy diet, stay active and definitely not smoke,” she said. “A high level of salt in the blood can make your blood pressure worse, so it is important to maintain a lower level of salt if you have high blood pressure to control it.”

If you have a family history of stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lupus, and other medical conditions that could put you at risk of stroke, talk to your doctor about them.

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