Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Are Women’s Stroke Risk Being Ignored?

People are afraid of getting a stroke. But what is your understanding of stroke?

According to American Stroke Association, a stroke is a condition when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or is burst. When this happens, the oxygen will be prevented from reaching the brain and this will kill the brain cells.

A report by the American Heart Association (AHA) revealed that stroke is the third leading killer of women in the United States. 60 percent of all stroke-related deaths in 2010 occurred in women, and non-Hispanic black women are most at risk.

Many of the stroke cases could have been prevented but doctors often underestimated the risks in their female patients. That is why AHA, after reviewing scientific literature, released the first guidelines for the prevention of stroke. The new guidelines, which were released online February 6, 2014 in the journal ‘Stroke’, include recommendations for women of all ages.

While the new guidelines were meant mainly for the doctors, women need to be more aware of their risks too.

Men and women share many of the same risk factors for stroke like high cholesterol, smoking and obesity. There are, however, some that are specific to women, including pregnancy, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and birth control pills. Others that are more common in women than in men are migraine with aura, atrial fibrillation or abnormal heart rhythm, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression and psychosocial stress.

Women have a higher lifetime of stroke because they live longer. They also tend to do worse after they have had a stroke, and they are more likely to end up in long-term nursing care and have a worse quality of life. Therefore, it is important to emphasize prevention and to start those strategies early in the childbearing years for women.

On the other hand, it is also possible that women do not take prescribed drugs because of the side effects like fatigue and frequent urination, or women might not be treated as aggressively as men.

The researchers noted that some of the women-specific risk factors are significant only if coupled with others. For instance, birth control pills become an issue if a woman also smokes or has high blood pressure. For a healthy woman, taking birth control pills might cause a little rise in her blood pressure, which is something to watch out for.

Some studies did indicate that high blood pressure is more common in women aged above 55 than in men and the condition has often not been managed well in women, though uncontrolled high blood pressure is a stroke risk for both sexes.

Certain things that are inherited cannot be changed. Nevertheless, people can always modify their lifestyle to cut their stroke risk by as much as 70 percent, better than any medications can accomplish.

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