Visitor Guidelines For more information about updated Seasonal Visitor Guidelines click here.

Women and Stroke

Twice as many women die of stroke than breast cancer every year. Know your risks.

Woman bird watching

Stroke and heart disease will kill twice as many women as cancer. Despite these statistics, women are more worried about their risk of getting cancer (breast and other sites) than their stroke risk. The good news is that 80% of strokes are preventable. Understanding strokes or brain attacks and how they affect women is important for the health and well-being for all women. Stroke is treatable; learn to recognize stroke symptoms and realize that stroke is an emergency. The first three hours are the most important, once you pass three hours, there is limited treatment for strokes. Know all the risks.

Women should also consider these additional risk factors

Combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen for post menopausal women increases the risk of stroke and heart attack. A recent Women’s Health Initiative study also found no reduction in stroke and heart disease risk for post menopausal women who had a hysterectomy. For every hip fracture that was prevented with hormone therapy, there were 8 more strokes and 8 more invasive breast cancers.
The majority of Americans who suffer from migraines are women. Having a history of migraines can increase a woman’s risk of stroke 3 to 6 times. If a woman smokes, has a history of migraines and takes birth control pills, her risk of stroke is increased as much as 34 times!
Researchers now believe that a pregnancy, and especially the first few months after delivery, can increase a woman’s stroke risk due to the natural changes in the body such as: higher blood pressure, increased production of blood clotting factors, significant blood loss during delivery, increased stress on the heart and additional volume in the second and third trimesters.
Diabetes affects a person’s ability to move sugar out of the blood stream and into cells. Diabetes is often called “woman’s disease” because after the age of 45 about twice as many women as men develop diabetes. People with diabetes have a higher risk of stroke.
Post menopausal women with a waist size of 35.2 inches and a triglyceride level or blood fat level higher than 128 ml/L may increase their stroke risk five times.
Nearly 29 million women have hypertension, the leading cause of stroke. Women are at a higher stroke risk if they are obese, take certain birth control pills, are pregnant, have a family history of hypertension, and especially if they smoke. Hypertension puts stress on blood vessel walls and can lead to strokes from blood clots or hemorrhages.

Next steps

If you have one or more of these risk factors talk with your doctor about how to reduce your stroke risk. A recent National Stroke Association poll showed that less than 30% of patients talked to their doctor about stroke during their annual exams. In addition to the normal stroke warning signs, a new study reports that up to 62% of women were more likely than men to describe unique stroke symptoms including: face and limb pain, hiccups, nausea, general weakness, chest pain, shortness of breath and palpitations.