Senior Health

7/8/2022 | By Family Features

This overview of stroke risk for women looks at risk factors and suggests ways to prevent disability or death from a stroke.

It may not be widely known that women face unique risk factors for stroke throughout their lifetime. Gender-related experiences such as pregnancy, preeclampsia, and certain types of birth control medicines increase stroke risk. Chronic stress can increase the risk for high blood pressure, a leading cause of stroke.

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death among women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 1 in 5 women between the ages of 55 and 75 will have a stroke. African Americans have the highest rate of death due to stroke among all racial and ethnic groups, especially African American women.

However, a large majority of strokes can be prevented.

Caring for yourself by understanding your risk factors can help reduce your risk and provide a better quality of life. Start managing your stroke risk with these tips from the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association:

Preemptive actions for women in mitigating stroke risk

Monitor Your Blood Pressure

woman with blood pressure cuff - photo by Monika Wisniewska, Dreamstime. This overview of stroke risk for women looks at risk factors and suggests ways to help prevent disability or death from a stroke.

The first step you can take in reducing your stroke risk is knowing your blood pressure and keeping it in a healthy range. High blood pressure is the No. 1 preventable cause of stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

The best way to know your blood pressure is to have it measured at least once per year by a health care professional and regularly monitor it at home then discuss the numbers with a doctor. For most people, a normal blood pressure should be 120/80 mm HG or less.

Other important steps can also help in maintaining a healthy weight: being physically active, eating healthfully, monitoring salt intake, and reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco usage can help control blood pressure. If you do develop high blood pressure, work with a health care professional on a plan to help manage it.

Related: 10 superfoods for seniors for a long, healthy life

The CDC also recommends managing cholesterol levels and diabetes, which raise the risk of a stroke.

Take Care of Your Mental Health

Some stress is unavoidable but constant stress is not healthy. Chronic or constant stress may lead to high blood pressure and other unhealthy behavior choices, which can increase risk for stroke.

Based on findings in a Stress in America 2020 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, the top sources of stress are money, work, family responsibilities, and health concerns. Managing your stress and blood pressure can improve your overall health and well-being. Reclaim control of your schedule and build in time to invest in your health. Find 10 minutes every day to do something for you, like listening to music, meditating, or going for a walk.

Related: Managing anxiety in high-stress times

Learn the Warning Signs

A stroke can happen to anyone at any point in life. Immediate treatment may help minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death. Learn how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T:

  • Face drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s 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.”
  • Time to call 911 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Talk to your doctor about ways to improve your well-being and help prevent stroke. Find more wellness tips at stroke.org.

Family Features