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Educational health information to improve your well-being.

Unique Stroke Risk Factors for Women

June 7, 2017 | By Nicole Simmons
Published in: Stroke

A grandmother with her grand kids at the lake

While stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for men, it is the third leading cause of death for women. In fact, every year 55,000 more women have strokes than men. Since women typically live longer than men, stroke can have an especially long-lasting effect on their lives.

More women:

  • Live alone when they experience a stroke
  • Are more likely to live in a long-term care facility after a stroke
  • Fare worse in their post-stroke recovery

It is vital for women to protect their health by understanding their unique stroke risk factors.

General Stroke Risk Factors for Women

Woman sitting while working at a computerYou can improve your odds of avoiding a stroke by learning lifestyle changes that can lower your risk. First, you may wish to address the following general risk factors:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Obesity

If you have a family history of stroke or any other risk factors, you may need to be monitored more closely.

Additional Risk Factors

Women also face some additional risk factors which may include:

Pregnancy

Changes in the body can increase the blood pressure of pregnant women. Additional stress on the heart can also increase stroke risks for pregnant women.

Contraceptives

Oral contraceptives in unison with other risk factors such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, and diabetes can increase a woman's risk for stroke.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen to relieve symptoms of menopause can also increase stroke risks.

Migraine Headaches with Aura

Women who regularly suffer from migraines with aura are two and a half times more likely to have a stroke.

Women May Have Unique Stroke Symptoms

woman looking confused, a less recognizable stroke risk factorIn addition to other risk factors, women may also experience unique stroke symptoms that include:

  • Fainting or a loss of consciousness
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Sudden Behavior Changes
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Hiccups
  • Pain
  • Seizures

These symptoms may go unrecognized causing a delay in medical attention. There is a vital three-hour window for optional treatment of strokes. Women often don't benefit from early stroke interventions because symptoms are ignored or misunderstood.

How Women Can Reduce Their Risk of Stroke

Blood pressure monitorStrokes can be a serious problem for women. In fact, every year strokes kill twice as many women as breast cancer. Unfortunately, this fact isn't widely known.

To reduce your risk of stroke, do the following:

  1. If you have migraines with an aura, don't smoke.
  2. Pregnant women should monitor blood pressure levels during and after their pregnancy.
  3. Women aged 75 or older should be screened for Atrial Fibrillation.
  4. Women concerned about high blood pressure or other risks should consult their doctor.

It is important that women learn their unique stroke warning signs. Don't downplay their significance. Rapid treatment is essential for stroke recovery.

Being there while a loved one is experiencing a stroke can be a terrifying experience, but you can get through it. The most important thing to remember is to get help quickly. Immediate medical care provides the best opportunity for a full recovery.

The Augusta Health Stroke Center is dedicated to providing the specialized care that stroke patients need. Visit their page to learn more about risk factors and rehabilitation options.