Current estimates suggest that 6.8 million Americans are living after having had a stroke, approximately 3.8 million of whom are women. Stroke is also the third leading cause of death among women and the leading cause of adult disability in the United States. Although much of the difference in stroke prevalence and burden is because women, on average, live longer than men, some of it is related to factors unique to or more common in women.
The American Heart Association (AHA) and American Stroke Association (ASA) recently assembled a panel of experts that published the first gender-specific AHA/ASA guidelines for stroke prevention in women. Stroke is a brain injury caused by a cessation of blood flow in the brain. This interruption can be caused by either a blocked blood vessel or a ruptured blood vessel. Because the brain is not receiving the oxygen and nutrients that it normally obtains from blood flow, the brain starts to die.
“How our society adapts to the anticipated increase in stroke prevalence in women is vitally important. Now more than ever, it is critical to identify women at higher risk for stroke and initiate the appropriate prevention strategies,” Cheryl Bushnell, MD, MHS, FACC, chair of the guideline writing group, and colleagues wrote in a statement.
It is important to emphasize stroke in women across the lifespan and to raise awareness about the unique risks of women compared with men. “These include pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia, hormonal contraception and hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms. We also emphasize that there are risk factors that are more common in women than in men, such as migraines with aura, hypertension and atrial fibrillation.”
There is no better way to treat stroke than to prevent it. Up to 80% of strokes may be preventable, with proper attention to lifestyle and medical risk factors.
Uncontrollable stroke risk factors include being over age 55, being African-American, having diabetes and having a family history of stroke. People falling into any of these categories tend to have a higher risk for stroke.
Some controllable risk factors for stroke are medical disorders that may be treated with medication or surgery. These conditions include high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, a personal history of stroke, and atrial fibrillation – an irregular heartbeat which allows blood to pool in the heart and can lead to blood clots. Lifestyle choices that can increase a person’s risk for stroke are smoking, drinking too much alcohol and being overweight.
If you have any of these risk factors for stroke, it is important that you work with a health care provider to learn about medical and lifestyle changes you can make to prevent having a stroke. It’s important to remember that even people with multiple risk factors can do a lot to prevent stroke. Though it won’t guarantee avoiding a stroke, your habits can make a substantial impact on reducing your risk. Some lifestyle changes that your doctor may recommend include:
- Quitting smoking
- Maintaining an ideal weight
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy diet
- Limiting alcohol
- Managing stress
- Reducing cholesterol
Ladies Night Out
Dr. Lundberg will be speaking about Women’s Stroke Awareness at the Emory Johns Creek Hospital annual Ladies’ Night Out women’s health and wellness event on October 23, 2014 at 6:50 p.m. The event is free and open to women of all ages.
To learn more about the event, please visit: http://www.emoryjohnscreek.com/events-classes/ladies-night-out.html
About Gina Lundberg
Gina Price Lundberg, MD, FACC, Emory Women’s Heart Center Clinical Director, is a Preventive Cardiologist with Emory Clinic in East Cobb. Dr. Lundberg is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. She is a National American Heart Association (AHA) spokesperson and has been a Board Member for Atlanta chapter from 2001 till 2007. Dr. Lundberg was the Honoree for American Heart Association’s North Fulton/ Gwinnett County Heart Ball for 2006. In 2009 she was awarded the Women with Heart Award at the Go Red Luncheon for outstanding dedication to the program. She is also a Circle of Red founding member and Cor Vitae member for AHA.
She has been interviewed on the subject of Heart Disease in Women in various media channels including CNN and in USA Today. Governor Sonny Perdue appointed Dr. Lundberg to the Advisory Board for the Department of Women’s Health for the State of Georgia in 2007 till 2011. In 2005, Atlanta Woman Magazine awarded Dr. Lundberg the Top 10 Innovator Award for Medicine. In 2008 Atlanta Woman Magazine named her one of the Top 25 Professional Women to Watch and the only woman in the field of medicine.
Emory Women’s Heart Center
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