2/10/14 – New Stroke Guidelines for Women

 In Tip of the Week

Strokes are the 4th leading cause of death for women in the US, right behind heart disease, cancer, and chronic lower respiratory disease. Strokes affect more women than men, and kill more women than men. But there is something that can be done. Research has shown that there are 5 risk factors that can increase a woman’s chance to have a stroke. For the first time, guidelines have been established that can help to prevent and reduce those risks.

Last Thursday, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association issued a joint statement that announced these guidelines to preventing strokes in women. If you didn’t hear the good news, here are some of the highlights.

1.   Risk Factor: Pregnancy and Preeclampsia. Pregnancy alone can be a risk factor for stroke in women. Preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, doubles the chance for stroke, not only during pregnancy but also later in life.

Prevention: There are safe medications for high blood pressure during pregnancy, including low dose aspirin. Women should talk to their doctors, and together determine a healthy remedy during and following pregnancy.

2.   Risk Factor: Birth Control Pills. Contraceptives may increase the risk of high blood pressure. Combine that with smoking, and it increases significantly.

Prevention: If a woman smokes – encourage her to stop. And then have her blood pressure checked before taking contraception.

3.   Risk Factor: Hormone Replacement Therapy. This one might be a surprise. It was once thought that Hormone Replacement Therapy reduced high blood pressure. It does not! It is more likely to increase it.

Prevention: Do not mix high blood pressure and Hormone Replacement Therapy. Women with high blood pressure should speak with their doctors to discuss other alternatives.

4.   Risk Factor: Migraines with Aura and Smoking. Women who have migraines with aura and who also smoke have an increased risk of stroke.

Prevention: Quit smoking. This will reduce chances of a lot of bad things happening.

5.   Risk Factor: Atrial Fibrillation and aging. Women over the age of 75 with atrial fibrillation have 4 times the risk of stroke.

Prevention: If a woman you care about is over the age of 75, have her screened for atrial fibrillation.

To read more about this, here’s a link to the full press release: American Heart/Stroke Association New Stroke Guidelines for Women.

And we would be totally remiss if we did not remind you that, if you suspect someone of having a stroke, act FAST.  When someone has a stroke, every second counts. You need to act FAST to prevent the resulting damage. If you see any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately!

Face – Drooping on just one side or the other.

Arms – ask the patient to raise both arms. Does one or the other drop or is difficult to hold up?

Speech – talk to them. Do they have trouble talking, or is their speech slurred?

Time – if any of the above is true, time is critical, call 9-1-1.

For more information, here’s a link to the American Stroke Association webpage: American Stroke Association.

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