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
- 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 measures to help reduce your chances of having a stroke:
- Monitor your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked every time you see your doctor. Target blood pressure is 120/80.
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Get regular cholesterol screenings. Total cholesterol levels under 200 are recommended and if yours is higher, it may be controlled through healthy eating habits, physical activity or medications.
- If you have Afib, which is a type of irregular heartbeat, control it with medications. While it can occur at any age, it is more common in people 65 years and older and people with high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes.
- Control your diabetes. If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to keep your blood sugars under control.
- Quit smoking. Smokers are more likely to have a stroke than nonsmokers. In addition, women who take birth control are at much greater risk for having a stroke.
- Exercise. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity each day may 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 of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
- Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Severe headache with no known cause
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
- General weakness
- Difficulty or shortness of breath
- Confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation
- Sudden behavioral change
- Nausea or vomiting
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.