Broward Health North
Stroke Center

Stroke Center

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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.

  • Sickle-cell anemia

  • Younger women who use cocaine or methamphetamine are at greater risk for stroke.

Broward Health North's Stroke Center is recognized as a certified Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and a Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Agency for Healthcare Administration.

The Joint Commission is the nation's predominant standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. This designation offers the public a way to identify which hospitals offer the best possible outcomes for stroke patients.

At Broward Health North, assessment and treatment begin in the Emergency Department by a specially trained team called the Brain Attack Team (BAT). The BAT is available 24/7 and consists of Emergency Medical Services (EMS and paramedics), emergency medicine physicians, neurologists, neurosurgeons, interventional radiologists, radiologists and nursing staff. Ten nurses at Broward Health North have gone above and beyond to obtain the prestigious Certified Neurological Registered Nurse designation. They are fully prepared to help you and your loved one through this delicate time. Our designated Stroke Unit is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure your loved one receives the best possible care.

If you require rehabilitation after your stroke, Broward Health North’s Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation Unit is here to keep you on a path to recovery. Our rehabilitation unit is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and is the first hospital in Florida to attain Joint Commission Certification for Stroke Rehabilitation.

What is a stroke?

Stroke is a cerebro-vascular disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. Every 45 seconds, someone in America has a stroke. Every three minutes, someone dies of one. It is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability.

Stroke Warning Signs

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, swallowing or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
  • If you experience these symptoms, dial 911!

Risk Factors

Some risk factors cannot be changed or controlled like age, family history and gender. However, reducing the following risk factors can prevent a stroke.

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity and obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs) or mini strokes
  • Excessive alcohol and some illegal drugs

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