Preventing Stroke in Women of All Ages

A stroke happens when there are blood-flow problems to your brain. A blood clot or bleeding in your brain can cause this serious health event.

A stroke can strike anyone—no matter your age, ethnicity, or sex. There is no typical stroke victim. In the U.S., stroke is now more common in women than men. More than half of the 795,000 strokes that occur each year happen to women and 60 percent of stroke deaths occur in women. In fact, in 2014, the American Heart Association released new guidelines for preventing strokes in women.

Certain factors can boost your chances of having a stroke. Women otherwise have many of the same risk factors for stroke as men – such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes – but women have other risk factors to consider. For instance, hormonal changes can raise a woman’s risk for stroke. During pregnancy, some mothers-to-be may develop preeclampsia—a form of high blood pressure. Certain birth control pills can also put a woman at higher risk for stroke--this is especially true if one smokes, is older than 35, years or suffers from certain types of migraines. People with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) are 4 to 5 times more likely to have a stroke. AF more commonly occurs in women due to the combined facts that AF afflicts older people and women tend to live longer than men.

Learn the common signs of stroke. During a stroke, both men and women often report that the following appear suddenly:

  • Numbness or weakness in the face or limb, usually on 1 side of the body
  • Trouble seeing
  • Dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Confusion and trouble speaking or understanding
  • Severe headache with no known cause
  • Other symptoms may include hiccups, nausea, chest pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, and a racing heartbeat.

    Knowing all these symptoms and getting immediate medical care when they occur can save your life. It may also lower your risk for more serious disability. Compared with men, women have a lower quality of life after a stroke. One recent study found women were more likely to have trouble moving and doing daily activities up to a year later.

If you suspect you or a loved one is having a stroke, call 911 right away. Time is essential for receiving lifesaving treatment. Learn more about how a stroke can damage your brain.

Without further ado, here they are: 8 Ways to Help Women Prevent a Stroke

You can‘t change your family history but you can change some of behaviors to help reduce your risk of stroke.

  1. Lower blood pressure
    Maintain a blood pressure of less than 120 (top number) over less than 80 (bottom number) by reducing the salt in your diet, avoiding high-cholesterol foods and eating a balanced diet. Take medication if it is recommended by your doctor.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight
    Keep your body mass index (BMI) at between 20 and 25s.
  3. Exercise
    Exercise at a moderate intensity at least five days a week for 30 minutes.
  4. Drink—in moderation
    Limit your drinking to one serving a day: a standard-sized drink is a 5-ounce glass of wine, 12-ounce beer, or 1.5-ounce glass of hard liquor.
  5. Take a baby aspirin
    Talk to your doctor to make sure aspirin is safe and appropriate for you to take.
  6. Treat atrial fibrillation
    Atrial fibrillation is a form of irregular heartbeat that causes clots to form in the heart. See your doctor for the best treatment.
  7. Treat diabetes
    Having high blood sugar over time damages blood vessels, making clots more likely to form inside them. Monitor your blood sugar and keep it under control. 
  8. Quit smoking
    Smoking accelerates clot formation in a couple of different ways. It thickens your blood, and it increases the amount of plaque buildup in the arteries.

Some key points to keep in mind: 

 Prevention, early detection, and treatment of stroke-related risk factors are the combined best defenses for staying healthy.

    • You can help keep your family and yourself healthy year-round by taking advantage of important health screenings covered by your health plan.
    • This includes some preventive services that may be covered at no cost to you if you are using a network provider*

* Preventive services at no cost applies only to members enrolled in non-grandfathered health plans. You may have to pay all or part of the cost of preventive care if your health plan is grandfathered. To find out if your plan is grandfathered or non-grandfathered, call the customer service number listed on your member ID card.

 

Source: Harvard Health, June 1, 2013, American Heart Association, National Institutes of Health

 

 Last updated: 5/1/2019

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