Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

New Guidelines for Reducing Stroke 
Risks Unique to Women

Aug 25, 2014 02:39PM ● By Cate Reynolds
For the first time, guidelines have been developed for preventing stroke in women.

Women share many of the same risk factors for stroke with men, but the risk is also influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, childbirth, and other sex-related factors, according to a new scientific statement published in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke.

The guidelines outline stroke risks unique to women and provide scientifically-based recommendations on how best to treat them, including:

Women with a history of high blood pressure before pregnancy should be considered for low-dose aspirin and/or calcium supplement therapy to lower preeclampsia risks.

Women who have preeclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a four-fold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Therefore, preeclampsia should be recognized as a risk factor well after pregnancy, and other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity in these women should be treated early.

Pregnant women with moderately high blood pressure (150-159 mmHg/100-109 mmHg) may be considered for blood pressure medication, whereas expectant mothers with severe high blood pressure (160/110 mmHg or above) should be treated.

Women should be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth control pills because the combination raises stroke risks.

Women who have migraine headaches with aura should stop smoking to avoid higher stroke risks.

Women over age 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation risks due to its link to higher stroke risk.

Preeclampsia and eclampsia are blood pressure disorders during pregnancy that cause major complications, including stroke during or after delivery, premature birth, and risk for stroke well after child-bearing. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine, and when seizure also occurs, this is called eclampsia.

High blood pressure, migraine with aura, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, depression, and emotional fluctuation are stroke risk factors that tend to be stronger or more common in women than in men. The results point to the need for more studies to develop a female-specific score to identify women at risk for stroke.

Warning Signs of Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, the symptoms of stroke are the same in men and women, and the acronym F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember common signs of stroke. Remember that stroke signs come on suddenly.

Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is their smile uneven?

Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like, “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any stroke symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately.

“New Guidelines for Reducing Stroke Risks Unique to Women” provided by Anne Arundel Medical Center