There are various types of medical concerns, conditions, and problems that are often thought of as only affecting older patients. When you’re in your 30s and 40s and even your 50s, conditions such as cancer, heart attack, and stroke may not seem as if they should be of immediate concern. While it generally is more common for older patients to develop certain cancers, stroke, and hypertension, these conditions can undoubtedly affect younger patients as well. Women especially should be aware of the risk factors and symptoms of stroke well before they reach their golden years. As May is Stroke Awareness Month, there’s no better time than the present to learn about stroke risk factors, and symptoms in women.
Risk Factors for Stroke - Genetics
Just as with many other types of medical problems or concerns, risk factors can be easily spliced into two categories: there are risk factors you cannot change (family history, medical conditions) and risk factors you can change (behavior and lifestyle). When it comes to risk factors for stroke, knowing your family history is of the utmost importance. You should let your doctor know right away if any first-degree relative (male or female) has had hypertension, high blood pressure, heart attack, or stroke. Also, if you personally have diabetes, sickle cell disease, high cholesterol, or heart disease or hypertension, you are at higher risk for stroke. Ethnicity also plays a role in stroke risk factors. African Americans are twice as likely to have a stroke than Caucasians. Hispanics, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives are also at higher risk.
Behavioral Risk Factors for Stroke
Your lifestyle has a lot to do with your risk factors for stroke. From the type of food you eat to how much you drink, your behavior can directly affect whether you have a stroke or not. The overconsumption of alcohol as well as tobacco use have been highly correlated with stroke incidence. Patients are advised to quit smoking and to drink in moderation or consume no alcohol at all. An unhealthy diet and physical inactivity are also associated with stroke. Both of these attributes are linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol and body fat, which directly affects the heart.
Stroke Factors Unique to Women
If you’re a woman age 30 or above, it’s never too early to start thinking about stroke factors. While advanced age in women is associated with higher incidence of stroke, it can happen to a woman at any age. In addition to all of the risk factors listed above, women should be aware that certain birth control medications can lead to stroke, especially if the woman is a smoker. If you smoke and are on birth control, this should be discussed, especially if you are age 35 or over. Women are also urged to seek treatment for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. These conditions are associated with higher stress levels, and higher stress levels are correlated with stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, women have higher stress levels than men, which puts them at greater risk for stroke.
Stroke Prevention for Women
In addition to being knowledgeable about your risk factors and your family history (and sharing this information with your doctor), there are also ways that women can prevent the incidence of stroke. Talk to your doctor about starting a low-dose aspirin regimen, which may help reduce the chances of stroke. Also, women should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Many women have high blood pressure but do not know that they have it. Quitting smoking is a must, as well as getting your cholesterol checked regularly (for most patients, a yearly physical will suffice). If you need more information about stroke or have concerns you would like to speak with a physician about, request an appointment at The Woman’s Clinic. We offer two convenient locations for your convenience.