Stroke is the third–leading cause of death for women, following heart disease and cancer. Women have more strokes than men, and stroke kills more women than men. Experts now believe that risk is tied to hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth.

New guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association describe risks unique to women, and provide scientifically–based recommendations on how to treat them:

  • Women who have preeclampsia have twice the risk of stroke and a four–fold risk of high blood pressure later in life. Therefore, preeclampsia should be recognized as a risk factor well after pregnancy, and other risk factors such as smoking, high cholesterol, and obesity in these women should be treated early.
  • Pregnant women with moderately high blood pressure (150–159 mmHg/100–109 mmHg) may be considered for blood pressure medication, whereas expectant mothers with severe high blood pressure (160/110 mmHg or above) should be treated.
  • Women should be screened for high blood pressure before taking birth control pills because the combination raises stroke risks.
  • Women who have migraine headaches with aura should stop smoking to avoid higher stroke risks.
  • Women over age 75 should be screened for atrial fibrillation risks due to its link to higher stroke risk.

Be sure to recognize the signs of strokes.