Strokes are caused by a clot that blocks blood from getting to the brain or bleeding in the brain caused by a burst blood vessel. Stroke victims may experience problems with speech, comprehension, physical activity and normal daily tasks.

People are more likely to have a stroke if someone in their immediate family has had one.

Risk factors specific to women may include:

  • Hormonal changes that come with pregnancy, childbirth and menopause
  • Smoking while on the pill, especially for women older than 35
  • Compared to white women, African American women have more strokes and have a higher risk of disability and death from stroke

What you can do to help prevent a stroke

Up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. Consider taking the following steps to help reduce your chances of having a stroke:

  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Get regular cholesterol screenings – once every five years for women 45 and older.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked every time you see your doctor. Target blood pressure is 120/80.
  • Control your diabetes. If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to keep your blood sugars under control.
  • Quit smoking. Smokers are 2 1/2 times more likely to have a stroke than nonsmokers. In addition, women older than 35 who take birth control are at much greater risk for having a stroke.
  • Exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity each day can help control cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and blood pressure.
  • Eat healthfully. Pay attention to the food groups – include plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Avoid excess saturated fats, trans fats, sodium and sugar.
  • Keep a healthy weight. Staying within the healthy weight range for your height reduces your risk for high cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
  • Manage stress and anger. Set realistic goals, maintain healthy relationships and use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and stretching.
  • Drink in moderation. Heavy drinking increases the risk of a stroke.
  • Talk to your doctor about aspirin therapy. People at high risk for a stroke may benefit from a daily dose of aspirin.
  • Learn the symptoms of a stroke. Knowing the symptoms may help you seek treatment more quickly, possibly preventing a stroke or lessening its effects. Symptoms may include sudden:
    • Numbness or weakness on one side of your body in your face, arm, or leg
    • Confusion, comprehension or speaking problems
    • Trouble seeing
    • Loss of balance, dizziness, trouble walking or general weakness
    • Severe headache
    • Shortness of breath or chest palpitations

Talk to your doctor

  • Tell your doctor about your risk factors and discuss any illnesses, ongoing health concerns and family medical history
  • Get blood pressure and cholesterol screenings regularly
  • Follow your doctor's instructions for managing health conditions that put you at risk for a stroke