In the battle of the sexes, here’s one that women – often unknowingly – take the lead in: About 55,000 more women than men have strokes every year. Strokes kill more women than men annually, making it the #3 leading cause of death in women.
Most people don’t realize that women suffer strokes more frequently than men. If you’re a woman, you share a lot of the same risk factors for strokes as a man, but a woman’s risk also is influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, child-birth and other gender-related factors.
For example, birth control pills may double the risk of stroke, especially in women with high blood pressure or who smoke. And, according to the American Heart Association, hormone replacement therapy – once thought to reduce stroke risk – in fact, actually increases it.
A recent study shared through the National Stroke Association listed these factors that have been found to increase stroke risk in women:
- Menstruation before the age of 10
- Menopause before age 45
- Low levels of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEAS)
- Taking oral estrogen or combined oral contraceptives
The study also showed a history of pregnancy complications can also indicate higher stroke risk.
These problems include gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during or immediately after pregnancy.
Add this to other general risk factors for stroke like family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, lack of exercise, and being overweight –and it becomes clearer as to why women can be more at risk for stroke than men.
Whatever stage of life a woman is in, it’s important that she be aware of all the risk factors of stroke. As it’s often said, “knowledge is power.” The more knowledgeable a woman is about her stroke risk factors, the more she’ll be able to understand how she can be affected and work with her physician or healthcare provider as appropriate to reduce them.