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Deadly woman’s disease

About 60 percent of stroke-related deaths occur in women

Commonly thought of as a problem primarily affecting older men, stroke is a woman’s disease. Approximately 60 percent of deaths related to stroke in the United States occur in women, and the lifetime risk of stroke is higher in women (about one in five) compared to men (about one in six) for those aged 55 to 75 years. But stroke can often be prevented.

Although men and women have several modifiable stroke risk factors in common­­—high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, overweight-obesity, atrial fibrillation, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, or lack of regular exercise—several risk factors are unique to women.

Stroke risk can be increased during pregnancy, in part leading to a higher stroke risk among women of childbearing age compared to similarly aged men. Migraine with aura is also associated with a higher stroke risk, particularly among women who smoke or use oral contraceptives. Women who have had eclampsia or pre-eclampsia are at increased risk of stroke up to 30 years later. 

Have migraine, particularly migraine with aura

Have ever had eclampsia or pre-eclampsia

Memorize some common stroke symptoms using the FAST acronym:

• Facial droop

• Arm weakness

• Speech slurring

• Time: call 911—stroke is frequently preventable and treatable, but you need to get help quickly

REDUCE STROKE RISK

• Follow a healthy diet such as the DASH or Mediterranean diet.

• Get regular exercise such as walking at a brisk but comfortable pace for 20-30 minutes most days of the week.

• No more than one alcoholic drink per day (no alcohol during pregnancy).

• Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

• Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Dr. Larry B. Goldstein in June 2016 issue.

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