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RISK FACTORS FOR STROKE IN WOMEN
Author : Carolyn Eagle, Senior Editor, Health Media Today Category : Health and Wellness
June is Stroke Awareness Month. For women, stroke is the third leading cause of death, compared to the fifth leading cause in men, so we are starting a three part series on stroke awareness and prevention to help you get informed and stay healthy.
WHAT IS A STROKE?
Simply put, a stroke is a sudden loss of brain function. It occurs when the blood flow to the brain is interrupted or when blood vessels in the brain rupture. The first is called an ischemic stroke, the second a hemorrhagic stroke. Both types will cause the brain cells in that area of the brain to die. How a stroke affects you depends on the area of the brain where the injury takes place as well as how much damage occurs. Common effects of stroke include the loss of ability to move, see, speak, read, write, and remember. Recognizing the risk factors and symptoms is critical because your brain cells can’t repair themselves once the damage has been done. Of course, prevention is the key but recognizing symptoms and seeking immediate medical attention is also critical to minimizing the damage of a stroke. In this installment, we are going to focus on risk factors, particularly as they pertain to women.
COMMON RISK FACTORS FOR STROKE FOR MEN AND WOMEN
• Family history of stroke
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Being overweight
• Lack of exercise
RISK FACTORS SPECIFIC TO WOMEN
• Pregnancy. Because of changes to the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart, pregnant women are at greater risk of stroke. A history of preeclampsia/eclampsia can increase risk of stroke years after giving birth
• Birth control pills. Women with additional risk factors such as age, smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure can be at greater risk if they are also taking birth control pills. Even women on low-estrogen birth control can be up to twice as likely to suffer a stroke
• Being a migraine headache sufferer. Women who have migraines with aura, (a visual disturbance such as flashing dots or blind spots) along with the migraine, are at greater risk of stroke. In addition the spasms of the blood vessels during a migraine can put women at increased risk
• Using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Used to relieve the symptoms of menopause, the combination of progestin and estrogen hormones can put women at a slightly increased risk of stroke.
• Clotting disorders such as deep vein thrombosis (clots in the legs).
If you think you have a reason to be concerned, speak with your doctor about testing and lifestyle changes or possible medication to decrease your risk of stroke.
In next week’s installment we will look at the signs of stroke.