Stroke is more common in women than men with the number of stroke deaths in women being 1.5 times higher. Stroke kills twice as many women as breast cancer each year. You can decrease your stroke risk by learning about the specific risk factors for women and educating yourself about risk-lowering lifestyle changes and medicines.
Women and Stroke Risk
Several factors contribute to a woman's risk of stroke, including:
- Strokes are more common in women with migraines with aura who also smoke. Smokers who have migraines with aura should quit in order to reduce their stroke risk.
- Atrial fibrillation quadruples stroke risk and is more common in women than in men after the age of 75. All women over age 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation.
- Birth control pills may double the risk of stroke, especially in women with high blood pressure. Women should be screened for high blood pressure before starting birth control pills. Women should be aware that smoking and the use of oral contraceptives increases the risk of stroke.
- Hormone replacement therapy was once thought to lower stroke risk, but it in fact increases the risk. Based on your individual medical history, you should discuss with your doctor if hormone replacement therapy is right for you.
- Certain factors related to pregnancy can also increase a woman's risk for stroke. Women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia are at an increased risk for stroke. Preeclampsia is a condition in which pregnant women have high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The high blood pressure of preeclampsia can persist even after the pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider about whether you should follow the guideline recommendation of low-dose aspirin starting in the second trimester (week 12) to lower preeclampsia risk. Preeclampsia increases a woman's risk of stroke by 50 percent.
- Women with concerns about high blood pressure or stroke should consult a doctor.