“If you are a woman, you share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but your risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth and other sex-related factors,” said Dr. Cheryl Bushnell, author of the new scientific statement published in Stroke, a journal of the American Heart Association.
High blood pressure, migraine with aura, atrial fibrillation, emotional stress, depression and diabetes are higher risk factors for stroke among women than men.
The guidelines also include stroke risks unique to women such as preeclampsia and eclampsia (blood pressure disorders during pregnancy). These disorders can cause stroke during or after delivery, premature birth, and risk for stroke well after child-bearing. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine. When seizure also occurs, it is called eclampsia.
Risks and treatment include the following:
- Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplement therapy to lower preeclampsia risks.
- Women who have preeclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a four-fold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Therefore, preeclampsia should be recognized as a risk factor well after pregnancy, and other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity in these women should be treated early.
- Pregnant women with moderately high blood pressure (150-159 mmHg/100-109 mmHg) may be considered for blood pressure medication, whereas expectant mothers with severe high blood pressure (160/110 mmHg or above) should be treated.
- Women should be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth control pills because the combination raises stroke risks.
- Women who have migraine headaches with aura should stop smoking to avoid higher stroke risks.
- Women older than 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation risks due to its link to higher stroke risk.
Source: American Heart Association news release
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