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.
- 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
You 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
- Sedentary Lifestyle
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:
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.
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
In addition to other risk factors, women may also experience unique stroke symptoms that include:
- Fainting or a loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden Behavior Changes
- Nausea or Vomiting
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
Strokes 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:
- If you have migraines with an aura, don't smoke.
- Pregnant women should monitor blood pressure levels during and after their pregnancy.
- Women aged 75 or older should be screened for Atrial Fibrillation.
- 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.