What Women Should Know About Stroke

What Women Should Know About Stroke

You might know the signs of stroke, but did you know this debilitating, potentially life-threatening event has a gender bias? According to the American Stroke Association, stroke claims the lives of more women than men.

A woman’s elevated stroke risk may be related to a variety of factors, including:

  • Pregnancy: The risk of stroke in pregnant women is estimated at 21 per 100,000. While the overall risk is low, a woman is at highest risk of stroke during the third trimester and postpartum. Women with high blood pressure should be monitored by their doctor closely and treated with appropriate medications.
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy): This condition doubles a woman‚Äôs risk of stroke later in life. If you have a history of high blood pressure and are pregnant, be sure to talk to your health care provider about taking low-dose aspirin starting in the second trimester.
  • Birth control pills: They‚Äôve become much safer over time, but birth control pills can still raise stroke risk, especially for women who are already at higher risk. Before you decide to take birth control pills, have your blood pressure screened, and above all, do not smoke while taking oral contraceptives.
  • HRT: Hormone replacement therapy or HRT should never be used to prevent stroke in post-menopausal women.
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFIb): This type of abnormal heart rhythm raises stroke risk among women over age 75 by 20%. ‚ÄúWomen have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation than men,‚Äù said Sandip Kothari, MD, emergency department physician at Holland Hospital. ‚ÄúWomen also have an increased risk of aneurysms and subarachnoid hemorrhages, another form of stroke that causes bleeding within the brain.‚Äù
  • Migraines with aura: Smokers who suffer from migraines with aura should kick the habit. That‚Äôs because Migraine with aura is associated with ischemic stroke in younger women, particularly those who smoke or use oral contraceptives.

Strokes Strike Women Differently

According to the CDC, the lifetime risk of stroke for women between 55 and 75 in the US is 1 in 5. This statistic might sound alarming, but there’s good news: most strokes are preventable. That’s why it’s important to know your risk of stroke, as well as the signs. Men and women often experience strokes similarly, but women can also have other, more understated symptoms.

“Women may present with somewhat atypical symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, malaise or rapid heartbeat,” Dr. Kothari said. “This can make them more hesitant to call 911, which can delay timely diagnosis and ultimately care.”

Prompt recognition and arrival to the emergency room can make a difference when it comes to a woman receiving the best treatment options, including tPA (a clot-dissolving drug used in treating the most common type of stroke) and neurothrombectomy (a lifesaving procedure used to treat acute strokes that involves the surgical removal of a blood clot from the brain).

Through a unique partnership with University of Michigan Health-West Michigan Medicine, Holland Hospital recently began offering access to neurothrombectomy. “Stroke patients who needed this procedure in the past had to be transferred to Grand Rapids area hospitals,” said Melissa Spooner, emergency and urgent care services director and procedure planning team leader, Holland Hospital. “Minimizing the time to treatment is vital for stroke patients, so being able to do these procedures right here further strengthens our stroke treatment capabilities and is a significant benefit for the community.”

For more on stroke, including comprehensive care available at Holland Hospital, visit hollandhospital.org/stroke.

Healthy Life Category