“Women are just as likely to have a stroke as men and while the traditional risk factors for stroke such as high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol apply to everyone, we now have identifiable risks that are clearly unique to women,” said Sara Sirna, MD, women’s heart specialist and professor of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. “Identifying these issues and increasing their awareness is the first step to reduce the risk of stroke.”
Stroke risk factors for women can be influenced by hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth, according to the guidelines. The guidelines report that unique stroke risks for women include:
Preeclampsia – Women who develop preeclampsia or extremely high blood pressure during pregnancy have twice the risk of having a stroke and a fourfold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Other stroke risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol and obesity should be managed early in these women.
Oral contraceptives – Birth control pills can raise a woman’s risk of high blood pressure and stroke. Women should be screened for high blood pressure before beginning oral contraceptives.
Migraines with aura – Women are four times more likely to suffer from migraines with aura than men. This condition has been linked to an increased stroke risk. These women should stop smoking to avoid higher risks.
Dr. Sirna supports the American Heart Association’s tips to cut stroke risk, including being active, eating a healthy diet, refraining from smoking and controlling cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and weight.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.