When you think about the risk of cardiovascular disease, which include heart attack and stroke, you probably worry more about your partner or aging parents than yourself. But did you know that stroke kills 45 percent more women than men in Canada, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation? Moreover, recent findings show that even young, pre-menopausal women are at risk. To reduce your chances of stroke, it helps to learn more about what raises or lowers your risk.
Here are five key things you should know to strike out against stroke:
MYTH: I'm too young to have a stroke.
FACT: No. you're not too young to have a stroke.
Younger women can be highly susceptible too - especially if you have a family history of stroke. According to a University of Washington study findings, if a first-degree relative (i.e., parent, sibling) has suffered a stroke, it doubles the chances of a stroke in young women, ages 18-44.
MYTH: Risk factors for stroke are the same for men and women.
FACT: Women have unique risk factors.
• Migraine has been shown to double the risk of stroke in women age 20-44.
• Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-associated high blood pressure) increases stroke risk by 60 percent.
• Pregnancy and childbirth can increase the risk of stroke three to 13 times, and the risk is highest in the six weeks following childbirth.
• Female hormones play a role too. Estrogen, for example, reduces stroke risk. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives can raise stroke risk for some women. If you’re currently taking either kind of medication, discuss any concerns with your Rexall™ Family Pharmacist.
MYTH: Stroke symptoms are the same for both men and women
FACT: Stroke symptoms often are different for women.
Now researchers know that about two-thirds of female stroke victims experience non-traditional symptoms, which include:
• limb or chest pain
• general weakness
• shortness of breath
• heart palpitations.
So be aware of these signs of stroke, as well as the classic warning signs of stroke.
MYTH: There are no controllable risk factors for stroke
FACT: Exercise makes a positive difference.
Exercise helps by reducing stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, and increased weight. A Harvard study found regular brisk walking may cut your risk by over a third.
MYTH: A healthier diet makes little difference in lowering your risk of stroke
FACT: Diet and supplements can make a significant difference.
A diet low in fat and rich in fruits & vegetables, low-fat dairy, and fish can help lower your risk. Studies have shown, for example, that eating six servings of fruits and vegetables daily cut stroke risk in women by a third, while eating fish (rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids) more than once weekly cuts your risk in half. You can talk to your Rexall™ family pharmacist about our omega-3 and other daily supplements.