In North America, women account for more than 60 percent of stroke-related deaths. While women are at risk for stroke, there can be a lack of awareness surrounding women and stroke.
Compared to men, women have different risk factors for stroke. Because of this, women need targeted interventions to raise awareness of stroke and increase prevention efforts. A recent study reported that female stroke survivors have a lower quality of life than men who have also suffered a stroke.
Risk factors of stroke in women
The American Heart Association, along with the American Stroke Association, recently released new guidelines for stroke prevention. Women who have the following risk factors should take steps now to prevent stroke:
- Migraine headaches — Migraines are three times more common in women and increases one’s risk of stroke by three to six times. Women who are experiencing migraines, especially with aura symptoms (seeing flashing or shimmering lights, zigzag lines or stars), could be at an increased risk of stroke.
- Postmenopausal — Women who are postmenopausal may be at an increased risk of stroke, in particular women with a waist bigger than 35 inches or more, or a triglyceride level over 128 mg/dL.
- Using birth control pills — Before going on birth control pills, it’s important that women get screened for high blood pressure. The combination of taking hormones plus high blood pressure could increase one’s risk of stroke. If you are using birth control pills, a doctor may recommend that you take two low-dose aspirins daily, as a way to decrease stroke and breast cancer risk.
- Pregnant women with certain health conditions — Women who have high blood pressure before becoming pregnant may be at risk for preeclampsia, which doubles your risk of stroke later in life. Along with vitamin D3 and prenatal vitamins, pregnant women with high blood pressure might be advised to take low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplements, in an effort to lower their risk of preeclampsia.
Why women should be proactive about preventing stroke
For women, reducing one’s risk of stroke is imperative to your health long-term. Other ways to reduce one’s risk of stroke include blood pressure control or taking medications that help lower blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, and treating migraines. Making an effort to prevent stroke today could significantly impact a woman’s risk of stroke. Talk to your doctor about stroke prevention, risk factors and the signs of stroke in women.
Swedish Medical Center ranks among the nation's top neuroscience programs, and was designated as a Neuroscience Center of Excellence (COE). Its proven excellence in neurosciences has made Swedish the Rocky Mountain region's referral center for neurotrauma — and the first hospital in Colorado to be three-times certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.