SPRINGFIELD –During American Heart Month in February, many women will focus on their risk for heart disease – the No. 1 killer of women. But the American Heart Association (AHA)/American Stroke Association also reminds women to know their risks for stroke. Close to 795,000 American’s will suffer a new or recurrent stroke of which – 60 percent will be women.
And although stroke is more common in men than in women, more than half of the total stroke deaths will occur in women. This year alone, 80,000 women will die from complications due to stroke, which is the No. 4 killer of women.
Some of the risks for stroke in both men and women include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking age, and heredity, and poor diet. But there are several risk factors that are especially important for women under the age of 55 and many women are not aware of these additional risks.
Specific to women these risks include:
Migraines: Recent research shows that women who suffer from migraines with aura (visual disturbances such as flashing dots or blind spots) can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer a stroke, depending on other risk factors.
Birth Control Pills: Women who take even a low-estrogen birth control pill may be twice as likely to have a stroke as those who don’t and the risk may increase if other risk factors are present.
Hormone Replacement Therapy: Women who take hormone replacement therapy may have a slightly increased stroke risk.
Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes or lupus can increase the risk of stroke.
Clotting disorders: Women who’ve had more than one miscarriage may be at higher risk for blood clots, which can increase their chance of a stroke. Other signs of a possible clotting disorder can include previous history of clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and livedo reticularis, a mottled purplish discoloration of the skin.
The AHA’s focus on women’s health over the last 10 years through its GRFW movement has provided women with the tools, assessments and education to reduce their personal risk for all forms of cardiovascular disease. Through this educational initiative, women’s threat from heart disease has been reduced by 21 percent.
There is still much work to be done and prevention and awareness is key in fighting heart disease and stroke. The sooner women know their risk, the sooner they can take preventative steps. All women can learn about the state of their health and what they can do to live better by taking the My Life Check Assessment. Go to www.heart.org for more information. To learn more about the risks and warning signs of stroke, visit www.strokeassociation.org