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Stroke: A Real Killer for Women

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As women, we are conditioned our entire life to be super proactive when it comes to the health of our lady parts. Annual mammograms, PAP smears, even special doctors to attend to those parts.

And then we learn the statistics. For instance, stroke is the No. 3 killer of women (55,000 more women have strokes annually than men) and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability. That throws you for a loop, right? Not to fear, you can take your lady-part training and apply it to stroke prevention. You can be just as educated and proactive about strokes … without enduring squished boobs and cold medical instruments.

What do you need to know about strokes?

First, the symptoms:

Some people use the acronym “FAST” to identify the symptoms of a stroke (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911). Women MAY have symptoms that vary including:

  • Loss of consciousness or fainting
  • General weakness
  • Difficulty or shortness of breath
  • Confusion, unresponsiveness or disorientation
  • Sudden behavioral change
  • Agitation
  • Hallucination
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Hiccups

Secondly, know that speed of treatment is super important.

If you have even ONE of the FAST symptoms, dial 911 immediately. Look at the clock and write down the time … the emergency room will want to know what time your symptoms started. According to the American Stroke Association, patients who take a clot-busting drug, or thrombolytic, within three hours of their first stroke symptom can reduce long-term disability from ischemic stroke – the most common type, accounting for about 87 percent of all cases.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve the odds of having a stroke. Lifestyle changes and if necessary, medications, can lower stroke risk. General risk factors include family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, lack of exercise, and being overweight. But, as a woman, there are unique risk factors like:

  • Taking birth control pills. The greatest concern about using oral contraceptives is for women with additional risk factors, such as age, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure or diabetes. Women should be screened for high blood pressure prior to starting a birth control regimen.
  • Being pregnant. Stroke risk increases during a normal pregnancy due to natural changes in the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart. Women who are pregnant should monitor their blood pressure during and after pregnancy to lower the risk of stroke.
  • Using Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), a combined hormone therapy of progestin and estrogen, to relieve menopausal symptoms.
  • Women who experience migraines with aura and smoke are advised to stop smoking immediately.

Much like our proactive lady part management, stroke prevention should include a discussion with your doctor regarding your risks for stroke and lifestyle guidelines you should be following. It’s just too big of a risk to ignore.

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