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Strokes in Women
|Can Strokes Be Prevented?
Research shows that strokes are more common among certain groups of people. While there are some stroke risk factors you can change, there are others you cannot. For example, age increases your risk as well as having a history of stroke within your family. That said, there are plenty of factors contributing to stroke which can be avoided or treated. While controlling those risks will reduce your risk of having a stroke (by up to 80 percent), there are never any guarantees. It is more about improving your odds.
How Can I Reduce My Risks?
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Hypertension is one of the main causes of stroke. Have your blood pressure checked at least once a year. If it is over 120/80mm Hg talk to your doctor about lowering it (read about preventing hypertension).
Smoking doubles the risk of stroke by contributing to high blood pressure. It also damages the lining of the arteries (speeding up atherosclerosis), increasing the risk of blood clots. Within 5 years of quitting smoking, stroke risk may be reduced to that of someone who never smoked.
Get your cholesterol checked once a year. Talk to your doctor about treatment if any of the following apply: (1) your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or higher; (2) your LDL (bad cholesterol) is 130 mg/dL or higher; (3) your triglycerides are 150 mg/dL or higher; or (4) your HDL (good cholesterol) is 40 mg/dL or lower. High levels of cholesterol can clog the arteries causing both stroke and heart attacks in women.
Check Your CRP Levels
Ask your doctor if you should have your CRP (C-reactive protein) levels checked. A high level is considered 3 mg/L and may be a strong indication of cardiovascular risk, including coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, even if your cholesterol levels are low. CRP levels are high when there is inflammation in the body and inflammation of the arteries has been linked to heart disease. It is not clear yet what role this blood test can play in screening for conditions. Read C-reactive protein test for more details.
Managing Heart Conditions
If you have received a coronary heart disease diagnosis, or other cardiovascular condition such as atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure (CHF) or hole in the heart, following your doctors advice for controlling the condition. All of these diseases can lead to an ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke caused by a blockage in an artery supplying blood to the brain).
If you have any heart disease risk factors or atherosclerosis anywhere in the body, ask your doctor to recommend a clinic for vascular screening. This test uses ultrasound technology to check the main arteries in the body, including the neck, for signs of blockages or arterial narrowing.
Diabetics are 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke than healthy people. If you have diabetes work with your doctor closely to keep the disease under control (read more at diabetes treatment). If you are taking the contraceptive pill, talk to your doctor about using a safer method of contraception. The jury is still out, but it is thought that the oral pill might mess with your blood sugar levels. See also, is it safe to take the contraceptive pill after 35?
Discuss taking aspirin regularly (known as aspirin therapy) with your doctor in order to lower your stroke risks, particularly if you have already had a stroke, a mini-stroke, heart attack or suffer unstable angina.
Reduce the amount of sodium and saturated fats in your diet. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, reducing sodium in your diet will still reduce your risk of stroke. A recent study indicated that a diet high in potassium (found in spinach, bananas, tomatoes and other fruit and vegetables) reduces the risk of stroke, particularly in those with high blood pressure. See natural remedies for stroke.
Aim to limit yourself to no more than one alcoholic drink a day for women (and 2 for men). Heavy drinking raises blood triglycerides and blood pressure. Also, stay physically active. Lack of physical activity and obesity contribute to your risk of stroke as well as many other conditions and diseases.
If you suffer pain or cramps in your legs when you walk, don't assume the pain is related to a back problem. It may be a sign of vascular (blood vessel) disease. If the arteries of the legs are affected early stages of the condition usually produce pain in the calves which occurs when walking but settles again after 5 to 10 minutes. The more severe the pain the more advanced the disease.