, 34-Year-Old Model Katie May Died From A Stroke—Here’s What You Should Know,
In tragic news this week, 34-year-old model and single mom Katie May has died. In a statement to People, May’s family confirmed that her untimely death was caused by a stroke. May, who modeled for Playboy and Sports Illustrated, was a social media star with over 1.7 million Instagram followers and countless fans.
“It is with heavy hearts that we confirm the passing today of Katie May–mother, daughter, sister, friend, businesswoman, model and social media star – after suffering a catastrophic stroke caused by a blocked carotid artery on Monday,” the statement said. “Known as MsKatieMay on the Internet and the ‘Queen of Snapchat,’ she leaves behind millions of fans and followers, and a heartbroken family. We respectfully ask for privacy in this this difficult time.”
In addition to being incredibly sad, her death is also understandably alarming, given that May was only 34. Her family told the New York Daily News that the model had been complaining of neck pain and was seeking treatment. Fox News reports that May took a nasty fall during a photoshoot last week, causing what the model believed to be a pinched nerve. This injury may actually have been a tear in her carotid artery. One theory is that this tear caused a blockage in the artery, triggering a “catastrophic” stroke by stopping blood flow to her brain and depriving it of oxygen. May leaves behind a beloved 7-year-old daughter, Mia.
May’s untimely death is an unfortunate reminder of how strokes can affect young women, more than you might realize. Here are five facts every young woman should know about stroke.
1. Young people can get strokes, too.
The American Stroke Association wants you to know that strokes don’t only happen to “elderly overweight smokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.” In fact, 35 percent of strokes happen to people under 65, and a full 10 percent of strokes happen to people under the age of 45, like May.
2. More women die from strokes than breast cancer.
According to the CDC, one in five U.S. women will have a stroke, and a lot of people don’t know about the risks. In fact, stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer does every year. While this stat sounds troubling, staying informed can go a long way to keeping yourself healthy.
3. Certain things can increase your risk of stroke, and you should be aware of them.
There are several “hidden” factors affecting women specifically. You might be more prone to having a stroke if you have migraines with aura (aka weird vision squiggles or black spots), an autoimmune disease or a clotting disorder, or if you are taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Another concern is birth control pills. Some estrogen-based contraceptives put women at a higher risk for getting a blood clot, and blood clots can cause a stroke. (It’s worth noting that the increased risk with birth control is also impacted by your age, family history, whether you smoke, if you get those migraines with aura mentioned earlier, and other factors; talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your birth control). Finally, being pregnant can make you more susceptible to a stroke. If you experience any of these things, you should definitely talk to your physician about your stroke risk and how to identify symptoms, as well as how to lower your risk.
Oh, one more thing: It’s possible that a nasty fall could be linked to a higher risk of stroke. While the exact details of what caused May’s death are unknown, some outlets have linked her stroke to a reported fall at a recent photoshoot. Studies have suggested that head injuries can lead to strokes, and that people with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) have an increased risk. If you’re still in pain after a fall, don’t ignore your symptoms.
4. All that being said, there are definitely things you can do to lower your risk.
Some of the risk depends on your age and family history, of course, but not all of it is outside your control. For instance, smoking is one of the biggest risk factors, so quitting will definitely help. If you have high blood pressure, work with your doctor to do what you can to keep it under control. If you experience migraines with aura, you should definitely talk to your doctor about what birth control might be best for you. And if you are planning to have a baby, talk with your physician about how to monitor your blood pressure.
5. It’s super important that if you suspect you’re having a stroke, you get treatment quickly.
Time is of the essence, because strokes cause brain cell death. Doctors believe that getting medical treatment within one to three hours of the stroke occurring can make a huge difference when it comes to chances for recovery.
Be on the lookout for signs that you are having a stroke, like a sudden weakness in the face or limbs (especially on one side of the body), sudden severe headache, trouble speaking, trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, and sudden difficulty walking. And, just as women have unique risk factors, they can experience unique symptoms, too, like fainting, shortness of breath, agitation, sudden behavioral change, hallucination, nausea, pain, seizures, confusion, or disorientation. If you’re experiencing any combination of these things, call 911 or head to an ER right away.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support May’s daughter, Mia. Check it out here.
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