Strokes recently declined among men, but not women, study says

Stroke risk for women
Stroke risk for women 02:12

In 2013, Diana Hardeman was 30 years old. She was a vegetarian, a non-smoker, a surfer and the picture of health -- until she had a stroke.

"The paralysis ended up seeping down from my arm to my leg, leaving the whole right side of my body basically immobile," Hardeman said. "I thought maybe I'm becoming paralyzed or potentially seeing death."

"It was terrifying," she said. 

Diana Hardeman was a vegetarian, a non-smoker and a surfer before suffering a stroke at age 30. CBS News

Hardeman is an example of a puzzling and concerning trend. A study released Wednesday in the journal Neurology found that from 1999 to 2005, the incidence of stroke declined in both men and women. But from 2005 to 2010, while the rates among men continued to drop, they stayed the same for women.

Dr. Kathryn Rexrode of Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital said risk factors for stroke -- such as obesity, high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat and diabetes -- may for some reason affect women differently than men.

"Diabetes is a strong risk factor for stroke in both men and women, but in women the risk is 26 percent higher than in men with diabetes," Rexrode said. 

Strokes in men have gone down but have increased for women, according to a study released on Aug. 9, 2017. CBS News

Hardeman recovered and went back to her gourmet ice cream business in Brooklyn. But last June, she had a second stroke.

"I had to stop being CEO of my ice cream business and to start being the CEO of my health and put that as my priority, which I did," Hardeman said. 

This time, doctors found the cause -- a small hole in her heart -- and repaired it.

Diana Hardeman was just 30 years old when she underwent her first stroke.  CBS News

"When I was told I had a stroke, I've always associated it with the elderly, something your grandmother has, but never thought it would be something that would happen to me," Hardeman said. 

You can remember symptoms of a stroke using the word "FAST": Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficult, Time to call 911. 

If you get to the hospital quickly enough, doctors may be able to limit permanent damage, by using medicine to dissolve a blood clot in the brain.

  • Jon Lapook
    Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for CBS News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook