This affects women differently than men
It’s the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control, and is the leading cause of serious disability and about 795,000 Americans will have one each year.
But women are affected differently by stroke than their male counterparts, according to research published in the journal Stroke. Researchers examined scientific literature on strokes in order to determine the factors that created the disproportionate effect. Researchers sought to pinpoint why 55,000 more women were affected by strokes each year than men.
The factors they determined played a role include age of first menstruation and menopause, hormone levels and birth control pill use.
“According to the study, women have certain female-specific medical concerns which can put them at higher risk for stroke,” says Dr. Smriti Wagle, a neurologist at Advocate Brain and Spine Institute at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “In addition to the traditional risk factors for stroke, they found that women who had their first menstruation prior to age 10, experienced menopause before age 45, had low levels of the hormone DHEAS or used birth control pills had an increased risk of stroke. In addition, women who had pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes or high blood pressure also had a higher risk.”
Dr. Wagle is not surprised by the findings and stresses the implications of the results.
“These factors are important for both physicians and women to be aware of for their future health,” says Dr. Wagle. “Just as patients who have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease are monitored and recommendations are made for healthy behaviors like increasing exercise and healthy eating practices, these women who have an increased risk for stroke should have a similar conversation with their health care provider.”
While strokes can be deadly, some risk factors are preventable, explains Dr. Wagle. In fact, one study found there are 10 modifiable risk factors responsible for 90% of strokes around the world.
Some of the risk factors that you can control include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Poor diet/physical inactivity/obesity
- Alcohol intake
Patients should consult their physician to determine which risk factors are present for stroke and work together on ways to lower their risk, says Dr. Wagle.
Want to learn more about your risk for stroke? Take a free, quick online risk assessment by clicking here.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.