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For Young Women, What's Your Stroke Risk?
Although most strokes occur in people older than 50, about 1 in 5,000 women ages 15 to 49 suffers a stroke each year, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
A stroke occurs when brain cells die because the brain is deprived of oxygen. The most common cause of stroke is a blockage in an artery, a blood vessel that brings oxygen-rich blood to the brain. This type of stroke is called an ischemic stroke. The blockage is nearly always because of a blood clot that has formed in the artery and becomes so big that it stops or greatly decreases the amount of blood that can flow past it. The blockage can also be caused by a dislodged fragment of a clot from elsewhere in the body that has become wedged in an artery too narrow for it pass through.
Another type of stroke occurs when a tear in the wall of an artery in the brain allows blood to flow out of the artery. The blood leakage deprives the brain of oxygen. This type of stroke is called a hemorrhagic stroke.
How a stroke affects a person depends on where in the brain it has occurred and how many brain cells have died.
Risks for stroke
In younger women, the risk factors for stroke are migraine, autoimmune disorders, obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Some research has shown that women who are obese or who have gained more than 44 pounds since they were 18 years old are about 2-1/2 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke than lean women who have not gained a lot of weight.
Smoking or using oral contraceptives also increases the risk for stroke. The stroke risk is increased even for women who use low-estrogen contraceptives. Women who smoke, are older than 35, and use oral contraceptives are at higher risk.
Healthy women ages 45 to 64 can cut their risk for ischemic stroke by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol, not smoking, and controlling high blood pressure.
Other risk factors
In general, African-American women are up to 3 times more likely that have a stroke than white women. For both African-American and white women ages 15 to 49, however, having a particular gene boosts the risk for ischemic stroke. The gene, phosphodiesterase 4D, encourages both the buildup of plaque in arteries and the formation of blood clots. It also raises the risk for hemorrhagic stroke. If you smoke and have a certain variation of this gene, you are at especially high risk for stroke, the NINDS says.
Pregnancy can slightly increase the risk for ischemic stroke. It is more of a risk for women with high blood pressure linked to pregnancy, a condition called preeclampsia or eclampsia, and for women undergoing cesarean delivery. A woman with preeclampsia during pregnancy is also at risk in the days just after delivery.
Younger women who use cocaine or methamphetamine are at greater risk for stroke.
What Is a Stroke or Brain Attack?
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.
A stroke is similar to a heart attack. In a heart attack the blood flow is interrupted in the heart and it doesn't get enough oxygen. A brain attack is similar but blood flow to the brain is interrupted, the brain does not get enough oxygen and brain cells quickly begin to die.
Recognized as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission's Certificate of Distinction, the Broward Health Medical Center Certified Stroke Center has a comprehensive system in place for providing rapid diagnosis and treatment of stroke to patients who are admitted to the Emergency Department.
Common Questions Regarding a Stroke
What are the benefits of a Stroke Center?
- Reduced morbidity and mortality
- Advanced use of acute stroke therapies
- Fewer stroke complications
- Improved long-term outcomes
- Improved efficiency of patient care
- Increased patient satisfaction
Another way to remember stroke symptoms:
- Sudden weakness on one side of the body or sudden weakness/numbness of face, arm, or leg
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing
- Sudden trouble walking or loss of balance
- Sudden severe headache
Call 9-1-1 at any sign of stroke
Controllable Risk Factors
Many of the things that increase your stroke risk can be controlled. The diseases that increase risk can be treated. Lifestyle choices such as eating and exercise habits can be changed.
Treatable Diseases That Increase Stroke Risk:
- High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
- Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat)
- High Cholesterol
Lifestyle Choices That Increase Stroke Risk:
- Tobacco Use/Smoking
- Alcohol Use
- Obesity/Excessive Weight
Uncontrollable Risk Factors
Some risk factors are controllable while others are not. The following are things you can't control but need to be aware of since they increase your risk for stroke.
- Age. A stroke can happen to anyone, but your risk of stroke increases with age. After the age of 55, your stroke risk doubles for every decade.
- Gender. Stroke is more common in men than women. But more women than men die from stroke.
- Race. If you are African American, your risk is twice the rate for whites. If you are Hispanic or Asian/Pacific Islander, your stroke risk is also higher than Caucasions.
- Family History. If someone in your family has had a stroke, you have a higher risk of stroke yourself.
- Previous Stroke or TIA. If you have already had a stroke or a transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke), you have a 25-40 percent chance of having another stroke in the next five years.
Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean you will automatically have a stroke. But because your stroke risk is higher, ask your doctor about changes you can make to prevent a stroke.
Act F.A.S.T. — You Can Prevent a Stroke!
Remember, 80 percent of strokes are preventable. Which means every year, up to 600,000 Americans could have prevented their strokes.
In the hospital, dial "22" for "Brain Attack." Outside the hospital, dial "911."
CT Scans are used to determine eligibility for "clot buster" medication. Patients only have a 4.5-HOUR window. TIME IS IMPORTANT. Act fast for strokes.
For more information about our services or a free physician referral, call the Broward Health Line at 954-759-7400.