MAYWOOD, Ill. (Feb. 11) – The first guidelines to be issued on stroke prevention in women are now available. These guidelines were developed by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association to address the unique risk factors for stroke in women.
“Women are just as likely to have a stroke as men and while the traditional risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol apply to everyone, we now have identifiable risks that are clearly unique to women,” said Sara Sirna, MD, women’s heart specialist and professor of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Identifying these issues and increasing their awareness is the first step to reduce the risk of stroke."
Stroke risk factors for women can be influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth, according to the guidelines. The guidelines report that unique stroke risks for women include:
Preeclampsia – Women who develop preeclampsia or extremely high blood pressure during pregnancy have twice the risk of having a stroke and a fourfold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Other stroke risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and obesity should be managed early in these women.
Oral contraceptives – Birth control pills can raise a woman’s risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Women should be screened for high blood pressure before beginning oral contraceptives.
Migraines with aura – Women are four times more likely to suffer from migraines with aura than men. This condition has been linked to an increased stroke risk. These women should stop smoking to avoid higher risks.
Dr. Sirna supports the American Heart Association’s tips to cut stroke risk, including being active, eating a healthy diet, refraining from smoking and controlling cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight.